New CEOs place fo­cus squarely on con­tent

The Bulletin - - Front Page -

TWO new chief ex­ec­u­tives have taken charge of two of Aus­tralia’s ma­jor pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies and share a com­mon be­lief of en­gage­ment through con­tent to drive au­di­ence and rev­enue growth across their busi­nesses.

In in­ter­views with The News­pa­per Works, News Corp Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Ton­agh and APN News & Me­dia CEO Ciaran Davis out­lined their plans.

Mr Ton­agh took over from Ju­lian Clarke on Monday, Novem­ber 16, to work in part­ner­ship with News Corp Aus­trala­sia chair­man Michael Miller, the former chief ex­ec­u­tive of APN and a long-time News ex­ec­u­tive.

Mr Davis, the former chief ex­ec­u­tive of APN’s Aus­tralian Ra­dio Net­work, took over from Mr Miller in Au­gust.

Mr Ton­agh had been chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at News Corp Aus­tralia for two years, af­ter mov­ing from Fox­tel where he also was COO.

“I don’t see us as a print busi­ness or a dig­i­tal busi­ness, but rather as a jour­nal­ism busi­ness; a news busi­ness,” he says, stress­ing the im­por­tance of con­tent en­gage­ment.

Mr Davis aims for APN to be num­ber one in ev­ery mar­ket in which it op­er­ates, and sees ap­peal­ing, tar­geted con­tent as the way to achieve this.

“In terms of me­dia com­pa­nies, it’s com­pli­cated but it’s sim­ple; it’s about cre­at­ing con­tent that grows au­di­ences that we mon­e­tise,” he says.

Davis: Only one num­ber that mat­ters

APN News & Me­dia chief ex­ec­u­tive Ciaran Davis has a soli­tary vi­sion for the com­pany he took over in Au­gust – to be num­ber one in ev­ery mar­ket that it op­er­ates in.

Mr Davis be­lieves there is no point in be­ing any­thing else. Third or fourth on the lad­der are an af­ter­thought in terms of ma­jor ad­ver­tis­ing spends.

As a re­sult, APN’s busi­nesses are pul­sat­ing. “Whether it’s cre­at­ing new con­tent or launch­ing new mo­bile apps, new dig­i­tal ser­vices, new ra­dio sta­tions, or new ver­ti­cals in our pub­lish­ing busi­ness, it’s about driv­ing as much au­di­ence as we can,” he says.

APN has a di­verse port­fo­lio of as­sets that sets it apart from other news or­gan­i­sa­tions. It pro­vides news­pa­per cov­er­age for north­ern NSW and Queens­land, owns or has an in­vest­ment in 13 ra­dio sta­tions in Aus­tralia, and pro­vides out­door ad­ver­tis­ing in Aus­tralia and New Zealand. The ma­jor­ity of APN’s rev­enue comes from NZME, which owns print, ra­dio and dig­i­tal as­sets in New Zealand – in­clud­ing the New

Zealand Her­ald. NZME makes up 47.64 per cent of the com­pany’s rev­enue.

The rev­enue gen­er­ated by Aus­tralian Re­gional Me­dia and Aus­tralian Ra­dio Net­work make up 22.1 per cent and 24.46 per cent re­spec­tively.

Mr Davis has been in the role three months, tak­ing over from Michael Miller, who is now chair­man of News Corp Aus­trala­sia. He was for­merly chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aus­tralian Ra­dio Net­work, a growth area for APN. For the first six months of 2015, ARN de­liv­ered $104.6 mil­lion in rev­enues for APN – an in­crease of 29 per cent on the same pe­riod the previous year.

While Mr Davis’ back­ground is ra­dio, he be­lieves the chal­lenges are the same across all plat­forms. “In terms of me­dia com­pa­nies, it’s com­pli­cated but it’s sim­ple; it’s about cre­at­ing con­tent that grows au­di­ences that we mon­e­tise,” he says.

“Whether that’s in pub­lish­ing, ra­dio, or pro­duc­ing con­tent, as we are now, with our Ad­shel Live prod­ucts, it’s the same chal­lenge that we have across all me­dia.”

Re­cently, APN rolled out 260 dig­i­tal pan­els across its Ad­shel out­door fur­ni­ture net­work, and will look to mon­e­tise this in 2016.

“We’re very soon go­ing to be able to have mo­bile in­ter­ac­tiv­ity with street fur­ni­ture ad­ver­tis­ing – down­load­ing coupons, buy­ing tick­ets, two-way en­gage­ment – so all those ac­tiv­i­ties are driv­ing both rev­enue and con­tent in our busi­ness,” Mr Davis says.

He sees mo­bile as a con­duit to link APN as­sets. “Mo­bile is the plat­form upon which we can ac­tu­ally have Aus­tralian Re­gional Me­dia, Ad­shel, Aus­tralian Ra­dio Net­work, NZME work­ing a lot closer to­gether,” he says.

“Mo­bile is the crit­i­cal part for us in terms of in­te­gra­tion of all our as­sets across pub­lish­ing, ra­dio, out­door, NZ, and it’s one of the key driv­ers across the next three to five years.”

It is early days, but APN is con­fi­dent of the suc­cess of the dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tion model rolled out across its Aus­tralian Re­gional Me­dia net­work of daily news­pa­pers in Queens­land. “We’ve looked around the world at the mod­els that work, and bundling is re­ally im­por­tant,” Mr Davis says.

“We’ve never had a higher au­di­ence at ARM than the 1.8 mil­lion that we have at the mo­ment, and in­creas­ingly we’re digi­tis­ing that au­di­ence.”

It is also ex­pand­ing its print reach and rev­enue through a cus­tom print­ing so­lu­tion called Brand Ex­tra, where per­son­alised edi­tions are pro­duced on dig­i­tal ink jet print­ers and dis­trib­uted to tar­geted au­di­ences. This aim was to meet the needs of ad­ver­tis­ers and has brought pos­i­tive re­sults. “More and more ad­ver­tis­ers want a one-on-one con­nec­tion,” Mr Davis said.

ARM part­nered Brand Ex­tra with Flight Cen­tre, which wanted to ad­ver­tise a new store. A cus­tomised news­pa­per was cre­ated, tar­get­ing in­di­vid­u­als’ hol­i­day pref­er­ences. The so­lu­tion in­creased rev­enue for Flight Cen­tre by about 35 per cent.

“More and more, we’re see­ing ad­ver­tis­ers want­ing to have those one-on-one ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and we’re ac­tu­ally work­ing re­ally hard to de­liver that. In fact, we’re the only op­er­a­tor in the coun­try that can do it at the mo­ment.”

APN is also ex­per­i­ment­ing with data jour­nal­ism. For the Rugby World Cup, NZME as­sem­bled the re­sults of ev­ery All Blacks game and de­tails of each capped play­ers’ place of ori­gin for an in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture. In Queens­land, the com­pany cre­ated in­ter­ac­tive maps of road deaths over the past 10 years.

“Now that’s a very in­ter­est­ing piece, but it’s also a very im­por­tant piece in terms of driv­ing lo­cal­ism, driv­ing aware­ness of the is­sue, and also driv­ing govern­ment sup­port around putting in bet­ter road safety cam­paigns,” Mr Davis says.

In ra­dio, APN ac­quired 96FM at the be­gin­ning of this year and the cus­tomised in­ter­net ra­dio plat­form iHeartRa­dio last year, which de­liv­ers a young au­di­ence upon which it wants to build.

“Lo­cal is ex­tremely im­por­tant for ra­dio, and it’s the rea­son why ra­dio is so strong in this coun­try be­cause peo­ple have an af­fil­i­a­tion to a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion and a lo­cal per­son­al­ity,” he says.

“What we’re ex­cited about with iHeartRa­dio is that we don’t see it as a threat to tra­di­tional broad­cast ra­dio; we ac­tu­ally see it as quite com­pli­men­tary.”

APN’s New Zealand busi­ness NZME is in the process of in­te­grat­ing its pub­lish­ing, ra­dio, and e-com­merce busi­nesses. Op­er­at­ing un­der the same roof in Auck­land from De­cem­ber will be the New Zealand

Her­ald and its dig­i­tal as­sets, The Ra­dio Net­work, and in­ter­net deals com­pany GrabOne.

This in­te­gra­tion proved to be ben­e­fi­cial for NZME dur­ing the re­port­ing of the Rugby World Cup last month. “We were able to have jour­nal­ists feed out con­tent that went on­line straight away, it could go on ra­dio seven min­utes later, and could be printed in the news­pa­per the next day,” Mr Davis says.

“There was a depth of anal­y­sis, and a depth of com­men­tary, and a depth of news cov­er­age [across plat­forms] that we haven’t seen be­fore.”

In his own time, Mr Davis likes to keep him­self con­stantly up­dated with the news. He starts his day by look­ing at APN’s mast­heads, both in Aus­tralia and New Zealand. He re­views the pa­pers, lis­tens to the ra­dio in the car, and checks Twit­ter on his phone.

‘ Mo­bile is the crit­i­cal part for us in terms of in­te­gra­tion of all our as­sets across pub­lish­ing, ra­dio, out­door’

Ciaran Davis

Ciaran Davis . . . “it’s sim­ple – it’s about cre­at­ing con­tent that grows au­di­ences that we mon­e­tise”

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