Looking for a job with newspaper group? Make sure you understand data…

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been spending the last few months talking to senior management figures across the newspaper industry – national and regional. The aim of these conversations has been to found out how they see their industry changing, how their specific business is changing, and to understand the recruitment challenges they face.

In all three areas, one word comes up time and time again – data.

“The challenge for me”, said the Head of Digital at one big newspaper publisher, “has been to convince senior management that it’s no longer just about the number of uniques [web and mobile site readers] you can get. That’s in many ways a vanity number.”

If web traffic alone isn’t enough, he went on to say – digital commercial people working at newspapers need to understand much more about their readers in order to sell appropriate ads.

This means that publishers need to create engaged communities on their websites, so that as much data as possible can be harvested and analysed, the commercial propositions can be created to meet the specific needs of these groups.

At a time when the cost of standard run-of-site advertising is being driven down by programmatic trading [a computerised auction of online adverts similar to the trade of stocks and shares], the newspaper sector has cottoned onto the importance of knowing as much as possible about who their users are, what they’re interested in, and how they behave online. And as more people access sites through their mobile phones, this need for rich user-data will only increase. Direct advertisers will increasingly demand that publishers know exactly where their readers are, so they can serve geo-targeted ads.

Right across the board, whichever discipline you’re in, if you can show newspaper executives that you understand the importance of data, know how to interpret it and how to react, you’re likely to make yourself pretty attractive to them.

So, for all of you looking for a commercial career within a newspaper group, that means gaining a great understanding of Google Analytics, Omniture, or one of the other analytical products that are available.

At a time when everyone is scrambling to work out how to make money from digital, the importance of data has never been higher.

If you can use data to build a business case, present well, and can talk to people, then you’re just the person for whom the newspaper industry is looking.