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Time magazine. (Time)

In a move touted as a “groundbreaking” first for the advertising industry, Time Inc. on Tuesday announced that marketers can now purchase print ads through the company’s automated digital buying platform, also known as a “programmatic marketplace.”

Time Inc. said it is collaborating with the ad-buying firm MediaMath to give programmatic buyers access to print audiences ranging in size from five million to 89 million readers across numerous categories, such as lifestyle and luxury, and 18 of the company’s U.S. titles, which include Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, People and Entertainment Weekly.

The inaugural brand partner is Target, via the media agency Haworth, which is “executing a multi-title print ad campaign purchased exclusively using programmatic technology,” according to a company statement.

Magazines and newspapers have been turning to new advertising technologies as their audiences and advertising dollars have increasingly shifted to the digital space amid fierce competition from tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as from media start-ups unburdened by legacy print costs.

On one end of the spectrum, brands have flocked to bespoke, expensive and time-consuming native advertising campaigns, which use traditional storytelling as a marketing technique. On the other, with programmatic, they can get their products in front of large, targeted audiences at the click of a mouse through real-time online auctions.

A recent analysis from the market research firm eMarketer put the total U.S. programmatic ad spend in 2014 at more than $10 billion, projecting that it will double by 2016. Time Inc. says its programmatic business has grown 85 percent year-over-year. In the third quarter of 2014, advertising at the company’s core print portfolio, which excludes its acquisition of the American Express Publishing group, was down 9 percent, while digital ad revenues rose 5 percent to $65 million out of $428 million in total ad revenues..

The notion of programmatic buying for print titles, the value of which is generally weighed against long-standing circulation demographics, seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

But Time Inc. global advertising chief Mark Ford was quoted in a company press release saying that print programmatic is “a natural evolution of how we conduct business with our advertisers.”

Capital reached out to ad-industry analysts for a reaction, and we’ll update if and when we hear back from them.