Native ads: The Debrief, going mainstream and legal concerns when hitting it big

Image of Debreif websiteNews came last week that Bauer Media was launching a multi-platform title called The Debrief. There’s no great shock in a magazine publisher launching a new digital brand aimed at ABC1 20-something women, but the difference with The Debrief is that it plans to make its money by eschewing traditional banner ads in favour of native ads buried amongst its editorial content.

For the uninitiated, native ads are essentially pieces of promotional content designed to fit with the look, feel, and tone of a specific digital publishing platform. Some publishers claim they aren’t even a new phenomenon (advertorials anyone?), but the point is that 18 months ago saying ‘native ads’ to a brand manager might cause them to stare back as if you were talking Swahili. Say it to them now, and they’ll tell you it’s a phenomenon in which they’re extremely interested.

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Media jobs: more turmoil for local papers (but also some hope?)

Johnston Press announced last week that every staff photographer working for its Midlands operation would be made redundant. That’s right, every JP newspaper in the Midlands will be left without an in-house photographer.

The presumption is that JP will instead rely entirely on freelancers – or just as likely, on “user-generated content” and other snaps from whomever happens to be in the vicinity with a mobile phone next time something newsworthy happens.

If that wasn’t sufficiently bad news for the state of media jobs in the regions, it appears that discussions are now ongoing to do something similar in the North West.

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PR jobs: digital skills are the new currency in communications

Whether the job title is Chief Communications Office, Head of Content or Director of Corporate Affairs, the day-to-day tasks in-house professionals in the public relations industry are asked to perform are undergoing fundamental change.

Across sectors as diverse as retail, financial services and health, the nature of PR jobs is being redrafted by the inevitable rise of digital technologies. New skills are needed at the highest level so businesses can compete in a world where new forms of communication are increasingly important.

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The Sun’s paywall: will it generate enough to secure media jobs?

When it introduced its paywall in August, The Sun became the first tabloid in the UK to charge for online content. For £2 per week, users are granted access to the newspaper’s website and its smartphone and tablet apps.

The Sun’s publisher, News UK, has previously taken sister titles The Times and Sunday Times behind a paywall, so the move was not wholly unexpected. However, taking The Sun behind a paywall was considered a gamble by some, given how News UK needs the publication to generate cash to support the wider business, and the wildly different approaches being taken by its closest rivals.

One of The Sun’s big online rivals, Mail Online, is now the world’s most popular newspaper website. It has achieved this by remaining an open site, where revenue is created by the scale of its audience.

Introduction of the paywall at The Sun also had the effect of handing The Mirror newspaper an immediate boost to its web traffic, which it sought to capitalise on with an aggressive marketing campaign intended to hoover up disaffected Sun readers who still wanted to get their news for free.

In a move to drive users to take up subscription, News UK bought rights to show Premier League highlights on The Sun’s and The Times’ online, mobile and apps platforms, in the summer of 2013.

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Xbox One vs PS4: which console won Christmas?

Thanks to staggered release schedules, we’ve been robbed of a good old-fashioned console war for several years now. But, with Microsoft and Sony launching the Xbox One and Playstation 4 within a few weeks of each other in November, the tail end of 2013 once again presented the opportunity to put the devices back to back. So, which of these two consoles won Christmas?

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Three great examples of content marketing in the financial sector

Libor, PPI, and high-profile stories about boardroom incompetence have done little to end the public beating dished out to the finance industry during the economic crisis. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sector’s pedestrian approach to content marketing seems to have done little to help win back old sympathies or convince new customers of its trustworthiness or expertise.

In part, the problem is one of justified anxiety. Perfectly reasonable fears about breaching regulations and falling foul of one penalty or another have fed a culture of risk-averse marketing in the financial sector. Consequently, everything has a beige hue and fails to light the imagination.

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Media headhunters’ view: content marketing for financial services

With its traditional conservatism and complex regulations, the financial services industry doesn’t immediately strike you as a sector ready to embrace the brave new world of content marketing, but scratch the surface and what emerges is a set of compelling reasons why it should.

Unlike consumer disposables, buying a mortgage or a pension product is a significant purchase. When faced with such a big decision, potential customers tread carefully and have important questions. Digital technology has enabled them to seek out answers like never before, meaning firms that can engage individuals with high-quality content have the potential to build lasting relationships. But how do they go about doing that?

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GTA V – an unrivalled financial success and a media jobs generator

One of 2013’s most eagerly awaited gaming releases, Grand Theft Auto V, has proved to be the most successful launch in the industry’s history – but what does that mean when compared with other media earnings of recent times?

The game – developed by Rockstar Games – had reported sales topped $1bn (£626m) within three days of its release.

To put that success in some kind of context it’s useful to compare the figure with earnings in media verticals that sit away from the world of computer gaming.

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Media Headhunters’ View: native advertising is here…and don’t brands seem to love it?

When you click to a web page how often do you notice the adverts that surrounds the content you’re interested in? One in ten? One in 20 times?

It may be a crude approach but banner advertising is the established – if unspectacular – way publishers generate the bulk of their online revenue.

But as mobile usage increases publishers have found it hard to innovate the humble banner ad and link valuable click-through info to customers; couple that with increasing consumer ‘blindness’ to banners and you have a system in need of overhaul.

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Local World: the future of journalism or lost media jobs and the beginning of the end?

Newspapers owned by Local World could soon be put together by an individual in a single session, according to CEO David Montgomery.

In a 2200-word screed sent to staff this week, Montgomery outlined his vision of “highly templated” newspaper formats abstracted from “largely online published content” by one content manager or content director.

The implication for a range of media jobs is vast. Under his proposals, subs, news editors and features editors are all outdated titles. Instead, individual journalists would take full responsibility for subject areas such as crime, education, business and sport. Each of these individuals would work remotely, and “embody all the traditional skills of reporter, sub-editor, editor-in-chief as well as online agility and basic design ability”.

Journalists will be primarily responsible for “content harvesting” across their respective areas, with the majority of that content produced by third-party providers, including the police, local government, businesses and sports clubs. The aim is to “serve every one of communities [sic] with content that is rich and comprehensive so there is no place other than the local publisher that our audience and readers need to find”.

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Media headhunters’ view on Twitter – bubble or bargain?

Image of Twitter bird logo

As the massively under-priced IPO of Royal Mail showed last month, pricing of shares in newly floated businesses is an enormously difficult business.

So it is easy to agree with Tomas Freyman of BDO that tomorrow’s flotation of Twitter is priced at what looks like “bubble territory”. It is, after all, a loss making company whose flotation values it at $17bn, according to the Evening Standard – more than 20 times current revenues. Freyman, having “looked under the bonnet” of the company, feels the company has a maximum valuation of $10bn – and even then only if it made significant strides in its business model.

BusinessWeek offers an equally damning verdict: compared with its 2012 revenues, the valuation is an astonishing 43 times revenues, it claims, and the $25 a share represents a P/E ratio of -171.

But the discrepancy between these two figures indicates

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Communications recruitment: content marketing for health journalists

An interesting evening at the Medical Society of London, where the Guild of Health Writers was holding an event on how to ‘Broaden Your Horizons’ as a journalist in the sector. What was compelling, for me, was that the challenges faced by journalists in this most specialist of areas are reflected right across the media world: a decline in print journalism, the rise of content marketing, and the need to adapt to the changing world.

Three of the panellists are living proof of how you can change mid-career: Simon Warne, now the Media & Marketing Director of Creston Health; John Isitt, the founder of Resonant Media; and Maureen Rice, Editorial Director of Cedar Communications.

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Media jobs: paywall vs free newspaper websites

In today’s Evening Standard, Roy Greenslade makes a case for metered paywalls for newspaper websites. As he says, it is the pragmatic (rather than dogmatic) approach: users who get past the maximum number of articles each month are required to subscribe. This has several commercial benefits, not least that it does not hugely impact visitor numbers through redirection from Google and others. Advertisers, therefore, are happy; and potential subscribers become used to the service and are more likely to subscribe – it may even help preserve a few media jobs.

Greenslade notes that, since introduced its ‘soft’ paywall in March, it has remained the country’s third best visited newspaper websites (behind the free to access Guardian and Daily Mail websites).

It is a technique pioneered in the UK – after much indecison – by the FT, which now has over 600,000 online subscribers. After similar debates, the New York Times recently alighted on the same model, and now has 700,000 subscribers – and is adding 100,000 each year. In 2003, I met the then Editor in Chief of the NYT’s website, and the debate on business models was raging – it has taken a good ten years to resolve. But pragmatism has won out.

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Media recruitment: NAO Report on BBC severance pay

The BBC does have an amazing propensity for self-flagellation – as I have noted before.

Last night was a great example. I was interviewed for around ten minutes by Newsnight to reflect on the NAO’s damning report into severance payments at the BBC.

Hiring, firing and media recruitment at the BBC is always a hot topic. The Corporation has paid out an extraordinary-sounding £25m over three years to 150 senior executives for redundancies, compromise and other exit payments.

In the longer pre-recorded interview, the point I wanted to get across was that the BBC was, on the whole, a fairly responsible organisation. Certainly, its payoffs for George Entwistle and others pale in comparison with those to some media executives like Sly Bailey and Rebekah Brooks. £25m over three years represents less than 0.2% of the Corporation’s £5bn annual budget: pretty good going for a business undergoing a massive relocation and restructuring programme. (Bailey and Brooks between them would have accounted for half of that.)

My strong feeling is that the BBC is under such scrutiny because it is – with some justification – hugely resented by other media companies because of its guaranteed source of income. They see the Corporation as the privileged, over-fed progeny of successive governments: whereas, in truth, the mentality inside the Beeb is a little like that of an unwanted and bullied step-child.

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Media recruiting: BBC welcomes James Harding with another furore

It is odd to think of the BBC as a victim of bullying. It is by far the largest and best-funded child in the playground, should be afforded the protection of the headmaster (though it rarely is), and consistently hands in top work. But, of course, in the pathology of the playground, this makes it a natural victim. And the fact that it consistently takes a mea culpa position rather than punching back only makes the problem worse. Come on, Beeb, the circling bullies chant. Have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Like many victims of bullying, it simply doesn’t know how to respond to such goading. Mostly, it demurs. Occasionally, it tries to bite back. And inevitably this misfires.

So when Ceri Thomas stepped up to say that the students who accompanied John Sweeney on the trip to North Korea had all given their consent, he must have been aware he was likely to be challenged. The BBC’s Today programme didn’t take long to get stuck in;  when asked how he could be sure this was the case (students were briefed individually, without witnesses, and signed no consent document) he blustered: it doesn’t matter whether it was done orally or in writing, he said. Because of the lack of evidence, of course, it matters enormously. The corporation’s detractors will pick away at these bones, and there are at least some of the LSE students who are willing to undermine Thomas’s version of events.

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Media recruiters’ view on Summly selling to Yahoo: good luck

The news that Yahoo has apparently paid $30m for Summly is surprising. It is a clever app, but has a few problems.

The algorithm that is designed to condense long news stories into three smartphone friendly paragraphs often garbles prose and leaves the story and the reader hanging.

Often, the third par tends to end quite abruptly, as if the algorithm has run out of patience). It also presents a very limited range of news stories in a package that is quite tedious to navigate.

Presumably, Yahoo’s money will help sort these glitches out and do a bit to engage media recruiters by hiring a few people.

But the business model is heavily flawed – in that there isn’t one. In its current form, this is

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The Sunday Times and the Scarfe cartoon

The day after acting Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens was obliged to apologise to the Jewish community for the offence caused by Gerald Scarfe’s anti-Netanyahu cartoon, there was generally a lot more heat than light shed on the subject.

A Scarfe cartoon is never pleasant, and this seemed designed to provoke a reaction. But in my view, one commentator got it right. The Jewish Chronicle’s comment editor Jennifer Lipman wrote a superb column for the Independent’s website which gives real balance and insight on the issue.

“What is anti-Semitic is always unpleasant, but what is unpleasant is not always anti-Semitic. That was my take on Gerald Scarfe’s now infamous cartoon,” she writes. Later on, she comes to the nub

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HMV, Jessops, Comet, and digital strategies

It is too easy to say that a lack of a coherent digital startegy is what killed HMV, Comet and Jessops. Too easy, but at least partly true.  As this article by Philip Beeching on shows, the senior management at HMV refused to understand the inevitable, even when it was presented to them in 2002. He claims that, at an advertising pitch he made:

The relevant chart went up and I said: “The three greatest threats to HMV are, online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product.”

Suddenly I realised the MD had stopped the meeting and was visibly angry. “I have never heard such rubbish”, he said, “I accept that supermarkets are a thorn in our side but not for the serious music, games or film buyer and as for the other two, I don’t ever see them being a real threat, downloadable music is just a fad and people will always want the atmosphere and experience of a music store rather than online shopping.”

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Cooperation and content origination can boost media recruitment

It is an over-simplification to say that businesses behave and grow like people: from selfish baby, to disruptive toddler, to self-conscious and defensive teenager, to the increasing comfort and complacency of the twenties, thirties and forties. Still, I’ll stick with it. And I’m intrigued, at the moment, by the transitions between stages. There have been many examples in recent months of businesses which have attempted to grow up. And some that just haven’t tried.

Children in their early years expect everything to be given to them, and – despite last year’s John Lewis advert – expect to give nothing in return. Matt wrote yesterday about Xavier Neil’s attempt to block Google advertising on his ISP, Free. His stunt was overturned by the French government; but what lay behind it was a serious question. The content – and advertising that goes with it – that Google and others provide requires ever greater bandwidth; but, like spoiled toddlers, they expect the ISPs and telcos to pay for the infrastructure without any share in the advertising revenues. It is not sustainable; the industry needs to mature, and find a compromise, this should help the development of further media recruitment.

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Media headhunters go to… a celebration of our free press

This evening’s British Journalism awards was a low key affair (and not the boozy do media headhunters have witnessed in the past). That said, it wasn’t – as you might expect given the Leveson inquiry and the mass-summoning of newspaper editors to No 10 today – a downbeat affair.

It was run by Press Gazette which, even in its new online-only form, continues to celebrate the best (and excoriate the worst) in British journalism. It was fitting, in this week of all weeks, that the awards were held in the sober surroundings of the Stationer’s Hall. The Stationer’s Company, its spokesman reminded us, was responsible for enforcing the closure of unlicensed publications for much of its early history. ‘Unlicensed’,

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Another media headhunter’s view: Leveson right to enshrine freedom of the press

I don’t especially agree with Martin’s conclusion on yesterday’s Leveson report (media headhunters disagreeing? For Heaven, I hear them shout) although like many I share his core concerns. The next few days, and months, will present us a range of conflicting voices ranging from the reasoned to the hysterical on both sides. For many, we need press regulation to save innocent lives from being torn apart by a feral destructive press, for others this is the first step on the road to the Thought Police and Stalinist control of the free press. Or many more reasoned points in between.

I’ll freely admit that I still don’t know for certain which side of the argument I come down on. I’m most inclined to agree with Emily Bell over at the Guardian. The debate already seems as outdated and redundant as the superinjunction at a time when virtually anyone can publish, in some cases with huge influence. But that’s not to play down the massive influence the printed press still holds in the UK.

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Media headhunters’ role in search for BBC Director General

Dermot Murnaghan interviewed me today on Sky News about George Entwistle’s departure and the new search for Director General at the BBC. It was a warm-up for his interview with Tim Davie, which ended testily, with the acting DG saying he had a job to get on with and walking off. In contrast, my interview was the very embodiment of civility.

Prior to my interview, I was asked several questions by Sky staff which didn’t make it to air – and some may be worth recording. The following contains a summary of those questions and my answers.

Q: Is it normal for internal candidates to be appointed?

A: As has been fairly well documented, the media headhunters concerned in Entwistle’s recruitment (not us) approached and interviewed a broad range of candidates for the role. The shortlist contained

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Random, Penguin, Northcliffe Iliffe – tactics for survival and media jobs

If early reports are to be believed, today’s news might mark a renaissance in that most challenging of media propositions, the joint venture. In some quarters, Pearson’s proposed sale of Penguin to Bertelsmann is being presented as a JV: in fact, the deal would give Pearson a minority 47% stake in the proposed business. But in another interesting development, David Montgomery is reported to be heading up the bid to combine the local newspaper assets of Northcliffe and Iliffe / Yattendon. Under this proposal, each vendor

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EE tests the market with 4G for £36 (but still too early to know effect on media jobs market)

EE, the owner of Orange and T-Mobile, has announced tariffs for its 4G service, expected to launch later this year.

In what looks like a major land grab ahead of the launch of rival networks, EE has plumped for a relatively low tariff of £36 a month for a basic data bundle of 500 megabytes a month, rising to £56 a month for packages of 8 gigabytes.

Significantly, EE has opted to launch the service under an entirely new consumer brand

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Media executive jobs: BBC Director General – the poisoned chalice

Gordon Brown once famously said that there are two types of Chancellor of the Exchequer: those who failed, and those who got out in time. The same may be said of Director Generals of the BBC.

George Entwistle might be feeling like Napoleon’s apocryphal unlucky general today. In a few minutes, the BBC will air its Panorama Special on the Newnight investigation into Jimmy Savile, and why that investigation was dropped. (It is an interesting scheduling choice to put the programme up against Newsnight itself.) Peter Rippon has already “stepped aside” as the programme’s Editor while the matter is investigated; Entwistle’s role in the decision making process

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Good news for consumer publishers – will more media recruiting follow?

There has been a small but, I hope, significant trend over the last few days. ‘Traditional’ UK consumer media companies have been announcing encouraging results – let’s hope the media recruiting follows. Today’s announcement from the Lebedevs that The Evening Standard has made a £1m operating profit in the last year was preceded a few days earlier by Briefing Media’s short blog on the fortunes of IPC, Dennis, and Haymarket.

Whatever its shareholders may think, News Corp

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Marjorie Scardino’s Pearson era – she’s safeguarded quite a few media jobs

So, Marjorie Scardino is leaving Pearson after 15 years in charge. A paean of praise has been heard since the announcement – much of it well-deserved. After all, she has re-engineered the business away from an odd hodgepodge of diversified holdings (James Ashton reminds us that Madame Tussaud’s and Alton Towers were both Pearson properties when she joined) to a more coherent – and sustainable –proposition. But one stat struck me as

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