New CEOs place focus squarely on content
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 . . . “it’s simple – it’s about creating content that grows audiences that we monetise”