News & Blogs

Newsworks - Shift 2015

John Sturdy
John Sturdy (former) Account Director

On February 24, I attended the third annual Shift conference, a themed event organised by Newsworks – the newspaper industry’s increasingly progressive marketing body.

Shift is always highly anticipated due to the calibre of the speakers and this year was no exception. Media luminaries Rory Sutherland, Sarah Baxter and current Sun editor, David Dinsmore, were all present. Each gave their opinions and insight on the roles of context as a marketing guideline, programmatic buying as an advertising tool, and views on how newsbrands involvement in the forthcoming general election.

Newsworks CEO, Rufus Olins, set the agenda by outlining the function of newsbrands in delivering trustworthy and authoritative content in a society in which consumers expect access 24-hours a day.

First guest speaker, Roly Keating of the British Library highlighted the importance of newsbrands throughout history and culture. Roly spoke about the British Library’s archive covering every edition of every newspaper in the UK back to the 1680s. That these documents capture the zeitgeist of any era was attested to and Roly talked of the importance of newspaper to scholars, researchers and journalists alike.

The inimitable Rory Sutherland then took the stage, posing an important question: in light of Daniel Kahneman’s research, why is media measurement almost always context-free when there is plenty of research to suggest that it is consumed otherwise? Rory then gave an entertaining oration on the role of context and how it affects decision-making. He argued that agencies must adapt to consider this more widely in a time when financial justification can often become the focus of a campaign. Several highly amusing analogies led us to the statement that most brands don’t have a target audience, but a target context – ‘digital and print combined’ certainly become increasingly cost-effective but the environment and the trust inferred by it play a huge part in the mix.

This was going to be a tough act to follow, but Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis ably took on the baton. He agreed that if content was indeed king, then context should at least play the role of queen. Douglas stated that programmatic systems have come into play here as ROI is easy to measure. This can’t be said of soft metrics, and perhaps, could be an unintended disincentive to use content-based providers.  It has an important role but must be governed correctly – a view vindicated by both agency and client representatives.

David Dinsmore provided an insight into News UK’s operation and business considerations when faced with a fragmented audience. Scale is still a hugely important: reaching five million people daily is something unique in the media landscape. David argued that his readers expect a level of ‘value’ from the paper. That trust and exchange can only exist if the readers aren’t misled. This is very pertinent when seen against the backdrop of Peter Oborne’s eye-opening recent piece on the Daily Telegraph’s internal editorial/advertising relationship.

The day was rounded-off with a lively debate involving some of the country’s most well-respected political journalists. What emerged was a fascinating insight into the driving force behind the UK’s press which went a long way in explaining why we trust these brands so much. Differing political stances were shared and quips exchanged frequently, much to the audience’s amusement – with Daily Mail and Daily Mirror journalists sharing a stage, this was always going to happen! Yet none would plant their flag in the sand and predict which way the UK election would fall. However, all were unified in their view that even in the age of social media, newspapers will have a huge role to play.

This provided the perfect antidote to the comparatively serious musings preceding it and all in attendance will have left with some food for thought along with an enormous insight on not only how the world of newsbrands currently functions, but how it must continue to evolve.