Who’d be the marketing director of a national newspaper, eh? It’s an apparently thankless task. The ready availability of daily sales figures is a daunting constraint on those who find most of their job satisfaction in the more imaginative realm of brand strategy. Pedestrian matters, like propping up a sagging circulation with a new promotional mechanic, tend to oust blue-sky thinking.
When you do manage to seize the high ground (and change the agency), someone else, usually the editor or the proprietor, takes the credit. That’s if there’s any credit to take: otherwise you’re fired. And according to our more gloomy commentators, newspaper circulations are now in terminal decline. So why do the job?
While life is often short and turbulent, it is high profile as long as it lasts. Plenty have made a reasonable career change out of it. Hugo Drayton was doing very nicely as Telegraph New Media managing director until regime change came along. His predecessor as marketing director, David Pugh, ended up as chief executive of outdoor company Maiden (then unclouded by financial failure). Nick Canning, once head of marketing at The Sun and News of the World, successfully made the move to Iceland. Then there are the careerists: those who really do make a difference, are allowed to think strategically and manage to stay the pace. Frankly, that’s David Greene at Independent Newspapers and, mostly, The Guardian – as the successive innings of David Brook and Marc Sands demonstrate.
So where does Katie Vanneck fit into this spectrum?After two and a half years she is quitting Telegraph Media Group, where she is head of marketing. The surprise, at first sight, is not so much that she is leaving as that she is going back – to Times Media. After all, though she denies substantial budget cuts have motivated her departure, they can’t exactly have been job enhancing. But why back to Times Media when, like her Times predecessor Simon Bell, she could be looking for a job outside the sector? Part of the answer no doubt lies in the siren call of a bigger job title and a better package.
But the draw, really, lies in the word Media, as in multimedia. At Times, as elsewhere in his organisation, Rupert Murdoch has put his money where his mouth is. Vanneck will have substantially improved resources as well as a broadened role. For example, £10m was spent relaunching Times Online earlier this year and a further £600m has been earmarked for improving print facilities. No one knows for certain how the multimedia mix should work, but marketing can provide as good an answer as any. It remains to be seen whether Vanneck will provide that answer – or move on to another sector.
- Superficially, Draconian measures rushed in by Westminster Council look like a severe setback for the freesheets, London Lite and thelondonpaper. In principle, the council could insist both papers cut their distribution by 30% in key parts of London. Cynics will retort that, provided the cuts are symmetrical, they will merely save on the print bill. And the cynics won’t be entirely wrong. The ratecard in this sector has always depended the ABC1 profile of Tube travellers rather than the inexact science of freesheet circulation management.
Stuart Smith, Editor