ThinkNewsBrands

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How data is fuelling Australia’s major news publishers and the opportunity for advertisers to capitalise on it

With digital news acting as the growth engine for Australian news brands, publishers are now sitting on vast troves of data about their readers.

This data is being used in innovative ways by journalists and editors opening a window of opportunity for advertisers to do the same.

Speaking at the ThinkNewsBrands Meet the Editors event in Sydney, Editor in Chief of West Australian Newspapers Anthony De Ceglie said: “I embrace data. First-party data, that's the key right now. It's going to become a really big issue.”

Indeed, the collection and optimisation of first-party data is at the forefront of most marketers’ minds, and they have an ally in Australian news publishers who have already felt the impact of changes to cookies and the use of third-party data.

News publishers know all too well the fickle nature of algorithms and have learned to diversify their audience strategies to ensure they aren’t reliant on social media platforms to share their content.

At the heart of these efforts is the data that publishers have gathered through reader behaviour and subscriptions.

Speaking at the Meet the Editors event in Melbourne, Editor of the Herald Sun, Sam Weir, said: “You walk into our newsroom, and it feels like you're in The Matrix. There are walls full of data. The journalists have it on their phones. They can see who's reading their story, what they were reading before, what they'll potentially read next.”

In the West, De Ceglie refers to this data regularly. He said: “I wake up and have several moments throughout the day when I will check how we're travelling. If it's 9am and we've only sold a certain percentage of where I want our subs to be, we can pull levers on and off.”

But De Ceglie is keen to differentiate between good and bad data. As is Executive Editor for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, WAtoday and Brisbane Times Tory Maguire. She said: “I say this to the newsroom all the time, the data is incredibly powerful and useful. And it gives you insights and strategies. It is not where the ideas come from.

“You cannot be too data-driven. Because if all you did was go ‘Well, that's the thing that worked last week so we're going to do that again,’ then you're going to end up with a website that just runs the same stories over and over again.”

Likewise, the data shouldn’t stop news brands from telling important stories, stories that can have far-reaching impacts on government and beyond.

Weir said: “Sometimes when you see the data, it can be quite depressing because the story you've invested a lot of time in – which is an important story and which will change laws and provide a win for your community – isn't the one that has done as much as a WAG or those kinds of things. ”

Speaking at the Meet the Editors event in Sydney, De Ceglie agreed saying: “There will often be times when you put a story on the front page knowing that your retail sales won't be as much as if you did something else. But you do it because it’s the right thing to do. At the end of the day, all of us got into this for a reason; to make a difference, to give a voice to the voiceless. That's the thing that drives you.”

For The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Maguire says the data has changed the way the brands approach output. She said: “It told us to slow down and stop doing so many yarns; reduce the volume of stories that you're publishing, spend more time doing good quality stories, and make sure they are stories that are important and have impact.”

So where, in all of this, does the opportunity lie for advertisers to utilise these rich insights?

The West’s De Ceglie shared a surprising example of how audience knowledge increased return on investment exponentially for one advertiser with a cheeky front page that saw West Australian Premier Mark McGowan aged by 30 years with the suggestion it would be 2052 before the state reopened its hard Covid border.

Credit: ThinkNewsBrands

De Ceglie said: “We pride ourselves on front pages that go viral. If you're buying the front-page strip ad, you're not just buying the front-page strip ad on the physical paper. You're buying it on the viral post. When we turned Mark McGowan really old, we had 13 million views of that front page on Facebook. Talk about the best value for money you've ever spent. I'm not sure we've done enough as an industry to share that.”

In addition to editorially-led data and insights, Australian publishers are also sitting on a treasure trove of data based on audience behaviour and subscriptions. News Corp brings this data together with a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that also fuses second-party data from partners such as FlyBuys to create a full picture of audiences and how to target them. Similarly, Nine calls on Adobe Audience Match to bring together its data assets and help advertisers to identify their own customers within the Nine ecosystem. And Seven West Media has a robust data offering with 7RedIQ that aggregates its own data with partners including Ticketek and Mastercard.

Over at The Herald Sun, Weir noted the increase in demand for travel advertising as international destinations are opening up again but had a word of advice for using data smartly. He said: “Use the data, be informed by it, see what it's telling you. But don't become a slave to it.”

To find out more about how you can activate the data of Australia’s top news brands, visit thinknewsbrands.com.au  

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