The Drum sits down with CNN, Reach and the Washington Post to talk about how modern media outlets’ offerings have changed over the past year as eyeballs shifted, budgets froze and that customer needs have changed.
Media consumption has changed during the pandemic, strangling some media business models and providing opportunities for others. Confined populations used their personal screens more often and, in general, news media traffic was up across the board. However, news media revenues fell due to lower advertising demand from the hardest-hit sectors, such as travel and leisure. Meanwhile, brand safety tools have directly demonetized information about Covid-19, race, gender and sexuality (leaving exactly what?). Those with event businesses also worked online.
Many publishers have struggled, many have lost weight. Soon, the disappearance of the third-party cookie will change the way advertisers buy audiences. It’s no coincidence that publishers are now talking about a big game around data, ideas and content. But not all of them can win the upcoming race. Instead, as Zack Sullivan, Future’s UK chief revenue officer, recently told The Drum, it will be big, determined sales teams that decide the frenzy ahead.
So how are their business proposals evolving?
The Washington Post Way
Scott Weisenthal heads the new Washington Post Creative Group, a revamped unit that absorbed the WP Creative team to handle custom creative, content, video and audio, social media, live programming and… ‘impression. This one-stop-shop will generate about a third of the publisher’s total commercial revenue in 2022.
With staff in branding, creative, design and marketing, her job is to “create emotionally resonant experiences that help shape culture, spark conversation and captivate influencers”, he tells us, all backed by a backbone of business technology, data and research. teams.
Weisenthal says it goes beyond a “traditional transactional exchange to deliver even more value.” He associates the Washington Post with the equity of a brand partner, he says, adding that in his opinion, there are few better “trusted partners” than a 143-year-old brand of news.
It’s not the only company with this pitch, but what exactly are brands buying? It can’t be another slick branded content video or “content for content only”. Instead, as publishers jostle to be the creator of content and the delivery channel that meets selected audiences, they will have to unveil information that proves they are more effective than other media.
Weisenthal says the Washington Post is on track to renew 100% of last year’s customers. The quick wins persist, he concludes. “We work with our brand partners to understand their business challenges, then leverage actionable insights to create programs that overcome those challenges. I like to think of an RFP not as a request for proposal, but as a request for partnership. »
Most recently, during her 20 years with the publisher, Cathy Ibal, Senior Vice President of CNN International Commercial (CNNIC), has assembled a revenue strategy team comprised of brand, media, innovation and commercial products for working with sales teams and customers. It seeks to add some extra bite to its products, which include ad sales, sponsorships, partnerships, and branded content. In addition, it has expanded its customer service teams. Travel and tourism are expected to rebound, she tells us, adding to the “strong interest” in campaigns around sustainability and social goals.
During his tenure, CNN evolved from a TV sales platform to a multi-platform approach that includes TV and digital. Over the next few years, data information and programmatic options were layered, providing more ways than ever to access CNN’s inventory and products. Ibal says it’s the role of a great sales team to “simplify the complexity by providing customers with a clear narrative and a single point of audience access.”
There is consistency in locations across the industry, if not in results. Ibal says it’s the quality of the audience that makes the difference. “Advertisers want to reach their own customer bases in a CNN environment, whether they are opinion makers, changemakers, big spenders, travelers or corporate decision makers.” There are few with CNN’s level of influence.
“We ensure client campaigns reach the right audience at the right time through a range of sophisticated semantic and contextual targeting tools, first-party data and data partnerships.”
After the third-party cookie is gone, publishers who can actually deliver on those promises will thrive. But that’s only part of the offer. CNN is also talking to audiences in new ways. Downloads of its audio content increased by more than 75% in 2020 and newsletter subscriptions increased by 90%.
“As a seller, I’m excited that we have even more touchpoints to connect brands to our audiences in a direct and personal way.”
With audio and newsletters overlaid, it’s clear that more platforms require more sales and it’s getting more complex, “requiring a much more diverse mix of disciplines and expertise than even 10 years ago. to create and execute a successful global advertising campaign”. .
Publishers now need the right balance between sales, creative, data, strategy and customer service functions, she says, adding that you can expect to see them be even more proactive in communicating the value of their premium environments as well as the power of their contextual environment. targeting.
Reach, the parent company of the Daily Mirror and Daily Express as well as many regional news brands, recently launched a new data product called Reach Plus which offers brands targeted advertising products based on data and customer value on his vast properties.
It’s part of a wider diversification game, with digital advertising now accounting for around 52% of its total ad revenue. It is a business that still derives its revenue from printing and subscriptions, although the consolidation of print teams at former rivals The Telegraph and Mail Metro Media last month points to the direction of sales. impression.
But Reach Plus keeps pace with market demands. Real estate firm OnTheMarket agrees, recently becoming its first partner. It uses Reach to drive real estate agents and potential new clients into Reach inventory – sometimes contextually – on sponsored newsletters and digital content nationally, regionally and locally. The brand will also be able to purchase social media advertising through a dedicated account manager (again, the media owner enters into the purchase).
Terry Hornsby, group digital director at Reach, says the sales team is “growing rapidly” to meet these needs through an invention team and two customer services teams. But it’s been a tough year of learning after some 550 employees were cut in July 2020. “Now the market is moving towards a more technical, data-driven sales process.”
When asked to prove he was thirsty for that data, Hornsby points to the recent OK! Beauty Edit, where selected beauty products are sent to subscribers each month, through personalized advertisements, editorials and content on its sites. Hornsby claims Reach increased campaign performance by 40% for a fashion and apparel retailer.
He calls it “a true partnership between advertiser and publisher”. He adds. “It allows us to collaborate on common products to drive a specific customer’s performance and business goals. Customers will use the full suite of known first-party data products to deepen its connection with customers across our portfolio of new brands.”
For sales teams, the remote revolution has opened up customers beyond traditional geographies, he says, adding that “the digital space has many changes ahead,” including the included Google FloC. “Publishers like us with first-party data and insights at scale will be well positioned to help advertisers achieve their goals.”
As good as each of these publishers may sound, it’s clear that they’ll need to differentiate their offerings and capabilities and present the results – lest they get lost in the chorus of ambitious claims.
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