The arrival of the internet has been the biggest challenge facing the traditional business of producing newspapers.
However, despite significant odds, newspaper publishers have made great strides in the online world – due to the strengths, trust and global recognition of the long-established newspaper brands – and have managed to embrace a medium that some might say is almost counter-intuitive to what newspapers are all about.
It’s a given that the majority of newspaper publishers have managed to keep pace with the technology aspect of the online arena. The real key to business success in the digital space, though, is ensuring the “holy trinity” of editorial, commercial and technology is in complete alignment. The question we at Times Media have had to ask ourselves, and no doubt most of our competitors also, is: do we also “do digital” or are we digital organisations?
The next 12 months will see newspaper sites continue to grow audience and engagement at a significant rate. But we’ll see very different approaches emerging among the competing newspaper groups to the whole area of online investment. The key factor will be understanding the depth and quality of audience, the health of offline business and management’s view of the future of print. A successful newspaper online business will be the result of a publisher’s commitment to maintain a durable and profitable offline business.
Our online operations are extremely valuable windows of insight to a huge slice of overall brand reach and allow publishers to transform relationships with their consumers and in turn advertisers.
Leveraging this insight, and understanding how to transform it into revenue, will become an increasing obsession for the industry.
Brands will continue to invest in digital and very much see it as a fundamental and profitable part of their business.
Each will continue to build revenue in a variety of ways from paid for content to transactional alongside significantly growing advertising revenues.
Globally recognised media brands that offer high quality, unique content will allow many newspaper owners to continue to attract a global upscale consumer. The important factor is to continuously explore ways to capitalise on our brand strengths and reach, to not only generate revenues but also quantify the contribution a global 24/7 news presence has on brand equity.
But to do that accurately, current forms of measurement need to evolve to ensure that we track levels of engagement rather than just traffic. And because real engagement goes way beyond looking at visitor counts we need to look at factors such as frequency of visit, time spent on site per visit, registration data for high-value content and the areas of the site that engage the users the most.
In this respect, the first issue is one of standardisation. There are several organisations involved in web measurement, with different methodologies objectives, be they metrics standardisation or commercial success – ABCe, Nielsen Net Ratings, to name but a few. The methodology and purpose of each is different and therefore are not in alignment.
There’s also a need to introduce more complex measurement metrics; hitherto we’ve relied on unique visitors and page impressions – these are metrics that we audit via ABCe but they do not demonstrate levels of engagement which are becoming increasingly important to advertisers and sponsors. As the web evolves, it’s clear we need to look at other information to help run our websites in a web 2.0, let alone a web 3.0 world.
Can the web offer much to brands? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but the fact remains that very few advertisers seem willing and able to use online as an effective broadcast, brand-building channel.
This is clearly a challenge for newspaper groups. The amplifier effect of using print and online together is well documented but the industry needs to find more convincing ways of proving to brands that multi-media exposure in a consistently high quality branded environment is the most cost effective way to reach consumers.
Dominic Carter, trading director, Times Media