News UK CMO to focus on linking sales and creativity

News UK has promoted a self-confessed “numbers” man in customer sales director Chris Duncan to the role of chief marketing officer as the The Times and The Sun publisher strives to maximise revenue from its engaged audiences. 

Sun + will be a priority for News UK CMO.

Duncan does not have what you might call a traditional marketing CV. In his current role he is responsible for growing revenue from its customer base through retail and online and print subscriptions.

Prior to News UK, he was managing director of customer value management firms Infoloop and Alchemetrics.  

Speaking to Marketing Week, Ducan acknowledges that he has not taken the classic route to the CMO job but claims the numeracy skills gained from his sales experience is exactly what the modern marketer needs to be equipped with.

“I would be very open and say I come from the numbers side. My background is in customer value, understanding how to manage the customer relationship and how investment [in that] grows overall revenue. In that sense I recognise that I am not someone who comes from a background of campaigns. Having said that, that’s a very traditional description.

He adds that the reaction from creative colleagues internally and at News UK’s agencies has been positive. [They say] it’s great to link the creative and sales side of the business.

“Very few marketing organisations are not being challenged on ROI and it isn’t always easy for the people who create those campaigns to make the argument from the investment. I think there’s an element of translating what marketing is doing back into the business that’s going to become increasingly important .“

Developing its paid content offering, primarily paid for digital packages content packages for The Times, Sunday Times and The Sun will continue to be a priority.  It is almost a year since The Sun went behind a paywall, which saw the introduction of Sun+ package of content, Premier League highlights and “Perks” for subscribers. 

News UK said in December that it had hit 117,000 subscribers down from 30 million uniques before the paywall was erected. Duncan says the publisher is still in learning mode.

“We’re happy we have launched. It sounds trite but it was a huge undertaking. Going from 30 million customers to 0 on day 1 and getting a commitment to the product. He adds:  It is a state of evolution as we learn how that model fits together.”

Another marketing challenge is the continued fallout of the phone-hacking scandal.  Last week, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones.

Duncan says it is difficult to gauge yet whether there will be any impact on brand perception from the latest development but does believe the worst is behind it.

“We continue to monitor it, its something we’re very aware but on balance the worst impact for us was at the point where the worst news came out and was first known. The trials in a sense are perhaps not as front of mind for people,”

Duncan will replace Katie Vanneck- Smith in September who is moving to oversee marketing and customer relationships globally at sister title Dow Jones. 

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