Beyond ads: News UK looks to commerce, data

News UK, home to national newspapers The Times and The Sun, has already staked a claim to digital subscription revenues to complement advertising. Now it wants to add a commerce and data layer.

News UK chief commercial officer Dominic Carter, who’s leading the changes, put it succinctly: “No business today can be reliant on advertising alone.”

What this means in practice is that News UK is souping up its efforts to drive commercial transactions on its properties and plans to get a lot better with applying its subscriber data. The goal is to create new targeting segments in order to be able to at least talk the same game as Google and Facebook.

“If you look at the most successful businesses — like Google and Facebook — they’re all good with data,” Carter told Digiday at Advertising Week Europe. “We’ve had great data since 2010 [when The Times first went behind a paywall.] We just haven’t used it enough in our commercial conversations with agencies. Previously, our business insights unit has informed marketing but never the commercial side of the business.”

That means for the first time it will open up subscriber data from The Times — log-in data from its Dream Team fantasy football gaming business, customer data from The Sun’s newly launched betting business, along with standard email and postal code data — and match it to advertisers’ own customer data to create new hyper-targeted segments.

“We’ll work a lot more effectively with data than ever before, and that should help us understand better what the ROI looks like for advertisers,” added Carter.

On the commerce side, Carter said News UK plans to work with consumer package goods companies to go direct to consumers through efforts led by News UK’s in-house creative agency Method.

“For example, take Alton Towers, which is a big promotional partner of ours,” he said. “We could build communities around the people who respond most to our promotions — like housewives and kids, for example. We could create communities around housewives and kids and then e-tail that for Alton Towers. That’s the kind of thing we’re trying to get to.”

To make this new way of working feasible, the publisher has had to radically restructure its commercial division. Rebranded The Bridge, this new commercial team has pulled the business insights and analytics staff into a unit alongside its marketing directors. Carter also hired a new commercial marketing director, underneath newly appointed chief customer officer Chris Duncan. Method has also been moved into that unit.

When he joined the business last year Carter made it clear some major changes were needed, and that he planned to double the digital sales team. He’s stuck to that: Now there are 23 digital sales people reporting to him, and he’s still hiring. To be able to scale The Sun back to pre-paywall traffic days, he has eliminated 15 roles, put 30 roles into review, and created 49 new jobs, including new roles in programmatic trading.

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