How News UK is remaking its ad sales organization to drive integration

News UK has restructured its commercial team, creating new roles and teams that can sell joined-up audience insights to advertisers in a way they couldn’t have previously when divided into print and digital teams.

Rather than split the roles of sales directors into digital and print, there will now be two sales directors who cover both across each news brand: Owen Griffiths for The Sun and Caroline Tredget for The Times. They will both report to former digital commercial director Ben Walmsley, who has been promoted to the newly created role of commercial director of publishing covering News UK’s digital and print propositions.

News UK has also created a new strategic development team whose goal is to create consistency and clarity in the publisher’s commercial proposition to advertisers. It didn’t reveal headcount.

The team restructuring marks the next step in the business’s plans to capitalize on new capabilities introduced as a result of News UK’s investment in technology, namely its first-party data tool NewsIQ last summer. News UK has a considerable portfolio of subscriptions and ad-funded newspaper brands, radio stations and numerous brand extensions, including Sun Bingo, Sun Bets and Dream Team.

To map customer journeys across its various products, it created the NewsIQ platform, which pulls in billions of customer data sets and sorts them into three pillars of insights: customer preference, opinion and emotion. The results can be viewed via a single dashboard that all staff can access, and forms the backbone of the publisher’s strategy of creating a single customer view. “Publishers in the future will be much more than content businesses,” said Walmsley. “We want to offer services beyond content.”

Editorial teams are now actively adding in additional questions or polls to articles, such as what’s most important to them when they go on holiday. That way they can gather more data on people’s opinions and emotions to topics and reactions, all data which gets fed back into NewsIQ for other departments to use.

NewsIQ currently houses data that’s been supplied from over 4 million readers in this way, covering 400 category and topic segments, according to the publisher. For example, it has first-party transactional travel data for over 2.6 million users from Sun £9.50 ($12.25) Holidays.

In the case of The Times, the marketing team has used subscriber preferences and opinions to help reduce churn. Doing this reduced churn rate by 16 percent and drove over 7,000 incremental subscribers, according to Walmsley.

Although The Sun is an ad-funded free-access tabloid, it garnered valuable audience insight during its two years behind a paywall, before that strategy was scrapped in 2015. That, plus the data on some 800,000 loyalty members, and 256,000 The Times digital-only subscribers are just a drop in the ocean of the pile of data the publisher has.

Having the data is one thing, but being able to do something meaningful with it that drives up revenue, is another. “We’re fortunate in that we have lots of data across numerous brand extensions, but that’s been built up over time in silos,” said Walmsley.

That’s where the News IQ platform comes in. “The main challenge is marrying the processes together into real-world points of interest that give you something useful,” he added. “When it comes to doing all that it’s about getting many different departments to share the same vision and be willing to undertake a significant 18-month project that, if done well, will never end but continue to iterate.”

The News IQ platform is being used for data insights internally, but in time, it will be opened out to all advertisers. Currently, there are a small number of test advertiser partners, though the publisher wouldn’t reveal details.

Obtaining a single customer view is useful in terms of strengthening a publisher’s pitch to agencies on the hunt for smart new ways to use first-party data to target their campaigns to the right people for the best results. But it is those publishers focused on a reader economy — subscriptions, memberships, micropayments and services businesses — which will benefit most from a single reader view, according to Douglas McCabe, CEO of media specialist Enders Analysis.

“Businesses that focus on monetizing users through digital advertising might see some benefit, but it will be much more limited,” McCabe said. “For too long, some publishers have been in denial that the former strategy must to some degree preclude the latter. What’s encouraging is that publishers seem now to have crossed that line.”

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