CMO interview: What Mark Reinke is doing to build News Corp's consumer business

Former Suncorp chief marketing and customer experience officer shares how he's tackling customer building at one of Australia's biggest media companies

Mark Reinke
Mark Reinke

Customer lifetime value

News Corp currently has 500,000 digital subscribers, and Reinke says he’s tasked with growing that by double digits. Importantly, it’s not just about acquiring customers; it’s about keeping them.

“If we can create the right content and experience, and personalise at scale – and we are making significant tech and data investments to do that – and we can move in any 30 days your engagement by one day, then we reduce churn by 1 per cent,” he says. “We have relatively good churn, but we want to continue to lower that and deliver incredibly strong content experiences. Engagement and personalisation is key – helping understand the content you want to find and make sure it finds you.”

One way News is building tailored approaches is through curated newsletters for different audiences. While most is still done by humans, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being employed to supplement an editor’s intuition.

Another is through more experience-led subscriptions. A good example is Vogue VIP, News’ first foray into combined digital and offline subscriptions for its magazine titles. The membership program is designed to recognise and enhance the loyalty and status of subscribers through exclusive experiences and events, special content and premium third-party brand partnerships.

We have to go into new spaces and a big part of that is partnerships as well,” Reinke says, noting partnerships in more traditional parts of the business, such as its $1 million giveaway with TripAdeal, and exclusive Coles Little Shop items.

Another fresh partnership puts News mastheads into Apple News+ locally and globally, opening it up to new users, particularly in younger and female demographics.

“There is an element of us reaching out with our brands directly, but the other way for us to grow is by taking our content and brands through with new partnerships, particularly big tech partners we think we can reach new audiences through,” Reinke says.  

Digital platforms inquiry

Partnering with one of the tech giants could be considered an interesting move. The wider News Corp business is among a throng of local media and industry organisations supporting the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry into the detrimental impact platforms such as Facebook and Google have had on Australia’s media landscape and competition.

News has a view on this, which is provenance over prominence. “The people who create the content should be prominent, and that’s not always the case today - the algorithms don’t recognise that often,” Reinke says.

“We don’t think it’s equitable for those creating the content not to be paid for the content. It’s unquestionably still being monetised by those platforms today.”

Reinke suggests News’  Apple+ partnership is one step towards the platforms paying for content and working closely with content creators to “create experiences that are the next generation of the way consumers access and interact with news, sport, lifestyle and other content they care about”.

Content value

For Reinke, it’s both an exciting time to be a content maker. This is despite being well aware of the ongoing challenge traditional media players face differentiating editorial products in a world where every Instagrammer is a content producer building a social following.

“We understand the value we have [in our content products] and we want to continue to improve them, as well as continue building trust, but we need to change the recipe to bring together the content, tech, personalisation, format and take it to new audiences,” he says. “If we get that right, we can grow this quite quickly.

“Yes, there is an enormous amount of content available and arguably content has been commoditised. However, journalism is a service to society and communities. There is so much content but how much is truly trustworthy? There’s a lot of data telling us there are increasing concerns about how much of that content you can and can’t trust.

“That’s a real opportunity and challenge for us to position journalism differently. It’s content that is fact-checked, often contentious, but has a role beyond just the fact it’s content.”  

One area Reinke sees budding with latent potential is local content, one of the most challenged parts of traditional news media businesses.

“It’s a really difficult business model because the ad model has fallen out the bottom of it. But if you said to me where is the most valuable content, I’d say it’s the local content because it’s the most scarce content. You’re not going to find it easily anywhere else,” Reinke says.  

In the last four months, News has launched seven new local titles, and plans to launch at least another 20 this financial year. These include fresh digital titles in Newcastle, St George and Canberra, supported by targeted newsletters.

“That local content is incredibly valuable. But while also creating those through journalism, we’re supplementing with robotic and automated journalism such as things people care about locally but doesn’t really require a journalist to create like traffic, weather and court lists,” Reinke says. “Where we want to get to is being able to deliver local news to every postcode based on what matters in those areas.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Reinke spies opportunities to better utilise News’ global footprint. He’s actively working teams across brands such as The Times UK and The Wall Street Journal in the US to find fresh ways of packaging and delivering content.

Whatever lies ahead, the focus has to be on delivering value for consumers. “That means the way we think about economics has to be customer lifetime value. The economics don’t work if you acquire but don’t retain,” Reinke says.

“Subscriptions businesses need momentum but they can’t be built on quick wins.  

“The fastest way to growth is to retain our way to growth. And the fastest way to that is engagement. The path to engagement is through great content, delivered when and how I want it. All the data and technology we’re investing in tells us how to do that.

“It’s an exciting new world where the ingredients are known but recipe isn’t. We have to constantly test and learn and scale. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

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