Thursday’s event offered fascinating insights from across the day’s editorial and commercial panels. Here are just some of the key takeaways from a thought-provoking day
We’re not going to be pushed around by anybody
Standing up for truth is one of the key tenets of a free press and the all-female editor panel took no prisoners in defending this.
Daily Mirror editor Alison Philips and The Sun editor-in-chief Victoria Newton pointed to the increasing pressure news brands are feeling from those using the law to prevent public scrutiny, particularly when that reporting is in the public interest.
Charlotte Ross, acting editor at the Evening Standard, spoke about the need for very careful fact-checking but publishing with confidence.
It’s all in the data…well, not quite
News brands are increasingly using data to give people the content what they want. “We constantly refer to the data, throughout the day, before we make our decisions,” the Evening Standard’s Charlotte Ross told delegates.
It’s all about being ‘data-informed’ rather than ‘data-led’. Focusing on the big stories of the day, but understanding how the balance of different types of stories play out with readers.
We put our trust in news brands
With the rise of fake news, sharing of unverified content on social media and the ever-changing standards of behaviour in public life, trust has never been more important.
“Our customers look to trusted sources of information during times of uncertainty and news brands deliver that,” affirmed Amy Caven, senior media manager at Boots.
News brands now have so many different ways of building trust with audiences – trust that is developed over time and continually reinforced with the delivery of professionally curated news.
We’ve never worked like this before…and we’re ready to do it again
Commissioned by the UK Government to communicate both broad and nuanced messages around the pandemic, All Together was the largest news media sponsored content campaign in UK history.
“It was definitely a can-do approach”, said Newsworks CEO Jo Allan. “We’d never worked in this way before – the traditional lines of competition had to be put to one side.” Each news brand worked on the same brief, each producing content in a way that would authentically engage their readers.
“Agility was at the core of this. I don’t think any other media could have done this as fast we did. We had to deal with things changing all the time,” said Allan. The campaign was a huge success. Learnings have been taken on board and processes are in place. The news industry is all set for the next big campaign.
People really respond if you talk to them in the right way
Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Downing Street Chief of Staff, unpacked some key insights for advertising, based on his experiences of managing the pandemic and working with the news brand industry on the All Together campaign.
“Many of the challenges that [government] departments face are not actually in their department, they sit elsewhere in other departments. The issue with communication is getting to the precise problem we are trying to fix. Unless there is the accuracy, communication is not going to be effective.”
He said that once the issues with the pandemic were understood, the other major challenge was reaching all the people, in just the right way. “We had to look at how we reach people that don’t usually trust government,” said Barclay. “It had to be much more personalised, much more ‘place’ based.”
Campaigning journalism matters
News brands have a fantastic record of campaigning for positive change; they can do this because they have such powerful reach and are trusted by their readers.
“We launched our campaign on the Sunday and by Tuesday we had raised £1 million,” said Sam Greenhill, chief reporter at the Daily Mail.
“It was amazingly satisfying to see the changes that came about because of the Guardian’s reporting of Windrush,” added Amelia Gentleman, reporter at The Guardian. “There are moments as a journalist where you can see that the dial has been pushed as a result of campaigning.”
More to do on diversity
“Socio-economic diversity is a real issue. Journalism lends itself to giving jobs to people that ‘know people’ and can afford to go on NCTJ courses. We have to address that,” said Emma Loffhagen, reporter and columnist at the Evening Standard.
The panel of young journalists showed that news has a very bright future, but the industry has to work harder to make it more itself more accessible and diverse.
Of course we talked about Boris…
Egged on by TalkRadio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, political commentators Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce sparred over Boris Johnson’s future.
“Johnson’s luck has gone. That magic just isn’t coming back,” said Maguire. “The talk is of an election in October. The thinking goes that in June or July there will be energy rebates, the National Insurance threshold will change – giving people back some money – and Johnson will head off the Privileges Committee.”
Pierce disagreed about an election this year: “Johnson’s not safe, but he’s safer than people think. The 1922 committee are not going to change their rules. The leader of the rebels has emerged and it’s Jeremy Hunt. He’s not going to be the next leader.”
Let’s face it, big news is big news
Brand safety is vital, but are we being too cautious with hard news? The7stars’ Michelle Sarpong argued that the industry has gone too far with its “fear of risk”.
Richard Warren, director of marketing communications, Lloyds Banking Group, agreed: “I haven’t had a discussion about brand safety in a news environment for the past three years. That’s because I am completely confident.”
Newsworks’ Denise Turner urged agencies in the room to go back and look at their blocklists, with The Guardian’s Claire Blunt saying that the news brand sees greater brand uplift with what’s considered to be ‘risky content’.
We’ve come so far, but there’s still a way to go
Since its launch three years ago, The Telegraph’s women’s sports section has gone from strength to strength. But its editor Anna Kessel is clear about the challenge: “What needs to happen is for women to be on the front page of the sports sections and to dominate the headlines.”
She said that covering women’s sport is not just the right thing to do, but there are real business benefits for advertisers looking to target women.
Darren Lewis, the Daily Mirror’s associate editor, agreed, but said: “Some advertisers have focused on women’s football in terms of girl power, but the audience for women’s football is far greater than that, so advertisers are missing a trick.”