Guardian pins hopes on branded con­tent

Guardian Labs dif­fers from its ri­vals thanks to an edi­to­rial ap­proach, ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor Imo­gen Fox tells Maisie Mccabe

Campaign UK - - NEWS -

When Imo­gen Fox, ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of Guardian Labs, talks about why Guardian News & Media’s branded con­tent arm is spe­cial, she likes to use an anal­ogy.

“The con­tent is like the fur­ni­ture you put in the house,” Fox ex­plains. “We live in the house any­way, so we know what is go­ing to look good. If you don’t own the house, then you’re go­ing to get some­thing home and say: ‘Oh, that’s not quite right there, is it?’ And that’s a prob­lem.”

It’s a neat way to ex­plain that Guardian Labs is both the creator and dis­trib­u­tor on the plat­form. And it’s im­por­tant to have a clear mes­sage about why The Guardian’s of­fer is dif­fer­ent be­cause it is fight­ing off com­pe­ti­tion from all an­gles – agen­cies, other pub­lish­ers, tech plat­forms and in-house di­vi­sions.

Un­til last year, Fox worked in edi­to­rial at the pub­lisher, ris­ing to head of fash­ion, and she is up for the fight.

“We’ve got 190 years of her­itage of mak­ing great con­tent,” she says con­fi­dently in a Bolton ac­cent slightly soft­ened by 13 years at The Guardian. “That might sound a bit ar­ro­gant but it’s true. We’ve got props in this.”

Com­ing from a fash­ion back­ground, Fox says she is com­fort­able work­ing with brands and dis­misses any sug­ges­tion that her move to the com­mer­cial part of the busi­ness rep­re­sents turn­ing to “the dark side”. “You can’t work in fash­ion with­out work­ing with brands,” she ex­plains. “I’d seen how many peo­ple had started to do branded con­tent and it seemed like a fit.”

Launched in 2014, Guardian Labs was ini­tially run as an agency by Anna Watkins and Alis­tair Camp­bell. Fox joined in Septem­ber last year and has re­for­mu­lated the team so that it now mir­rors GNM’S edi­to­rial model, with a fea­tures desk led by for­mer Guardian cul­ture writer Richard Vine. Vine will be speak­ing at Me­dia360 today (Thurs­day).

One of the first changes she made was to get the com­mer­cial team us­ing GNM’S in-house an­a­lyt­ics plat­form Ophan – which the edi­to­rial team is “ob­sessed with” – to re­ally get to know what works.

The new model has en­abled so­phis­ti­cated deals with the likes of Spo­tify and Bar­clays. The Bar­clays col­lab­o­ra­tion, es­ti­mated to be worth as much as £900,000 to GNM over the next year, started last week with sto­ries on fi­nan­cial fraud and se­cu­rity. It’s part of a cam­paign also in­volv­ing Global and News UK.

Sa­jid Nazir, head of branded con­tent and col­lab­o­ra­tions at Cho­rus, which is part of Bar­clays’ media agency Maxus, said the bank signed up with The Guardian first be­cause of the “ded­i­ca­tion they showed” in get­ting it “over the line”.

GNM doesn’t dis­close num­bers but UK com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Nick He­wat says that, com­bined with pro­gram­matic ad­spend, branded con­tent is “man­ag­ing to off­set any struc­tural de­clines that we can see in print”. Both planks are part of GNM’S new strat­egy to com­bat the fact that its digital rev­enue fell in the 2015-16 fi­nan­cial year amid stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Google and Face­book.

An­other plank is the mem­ber­ship scheme, which He­wat says GNM is “heav­ily in­vested in”, bat­ting away the idea of in­tro­duc­ing a pay­wall for its free web­site. Fox says GNM hasn’t got the “credit it de­serves” for ex­plor­ing what He­wat calls “the third way” in digital pub­lish­ing. “It’s do­ing re­ally well and ahead of where we ex­pected it to be,” she in­sists.

As the owner of The Guardian pre­pares to re­port what is an­tic­i­pated to be an­other set of heavy – al­beit nar­row­ing – losses in July, it is en­cour­ag­ing that Fox, He­wat and GNM chief rev­enue officer Hamish Nick­lin have a plan.

Given the fi­nan­cial pres­sures on The Guardian, which is con­sid­er­ing re­lo­cat­ing from Lon­don to its birth­place in Manch­ester, Guardian Labs needs all the sup­port it can get from ad­ver­tis­ers.

Spo­tify: col­lab­o­ra­tion with The Guardian in­cludes cu­rated playlists from dif­fer­ent decades

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.