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Brief Published: 11 Mar 2014

Digital Media Strategies 2014


The Digital Media Strategies conference in London last week confirmed unsurprisingly, and for the umpteenth time, that content is king. But big media brands still argued over how to best monetise and distribute that golden content.

Raju Narisetti, senior vice-president of strategy at News Corporation in the US, spoke about what constituted the new normal for digital brands. His key points were: marketers are now publishers; content is no longer optional, but a necessity; and quality and relevance define brand success.

  • Quality & Value: Many speakers echoed Narisetti’s opinion on quality. In his keynote speech, Duncan Painter, chief executive of British media company Top Right Group, urged brands to concentrate on the value and quality of their content over distribution. “Let [Facebook, LinkedIn, and others] worry about how they get content on multiple devices.”
  • Pay Wall vs. Open Content: Andrew Miller, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group in the UK rejected the idea of putting the newspaper’s digital content behind a pay wall, but discussed the option to monetise its community readership via a membership plan. “Membership to me is adding value,” he said in response to accusations from British newspaper company News UK’s Mike Darcey that the Guardian’s open-web model (whereby paid-for print content is available for free online) is not sustainable.

    Ultimately, delegates agreed with Simon Fox, chief executive of British newspaper and magazine publisher Trinity Mirror, who said: “You won’t be successful trying to charge for straightforward news. It’s quite obvious you can’t charge for information that is out there for free.”
  • Old & New Players: Older media outlets such as UK business publication the Financial Times (FT) are learning from new digital-first players such as digital news outlet Quartz and US business and news website, Business Insider.

    John Ridding, chief executive of the FT, admitted that he’s excited by this “upsurge of innovation in news”, and praised American technology news and media network The Verge’s “degree of specialisation and insight”, which he said reflects the FT’s own aims with its FastFT digital strategy. Others such as Torry Pedereson, chief executive of Verdens Gang (Norway’s largest newspaper group), urged brands to separate their print and digital initiatives to fend off “legacy culture”.
  • Native Advertising: Banner advertising was praised and rejected by different parties at the conference, but speakers agreed that native advertising is a much-needed area of growth for media companies. 

    The Wall Street Journal announced the launch of its own native advertising arm the WSJ. Custom Studios, but entertainment site BuzzFeed was the source of inspiration here, with its blurring of native advertising and branded content. Vice-president of advertising Will Hayward stressed that readers “look at [BuzzFeed’s] branded content in the same way as editorial content”. He cited the popularity of the Millennial Diseases post for Oscar Health insurance as a good example.