News & Opinion

Nick Hewat: Advertisers need to pay more attention to attention

The Guardian's commercial director spoke at Newsworks' session for MediaCom's Publishing Festival, alongside The Sunday Times' Eleanor Mills, Newsworks' Denise Turner and MediaCom's Adam Crow and Pauline Robson.

Elaborating on his point, Hewat referenced newsbrands' high attention scores and dwell times, as well as the plethora of different digital models publishers are employing to drive reader revenue. "Five years ago there was that opinion that news was generic and you couldn't get people to pay for it... [but] people are prepared to pay, and when people are prepared to pay for something they devote a huge amount of attention to it."

Also highlighting engagement, Eleanor Mills, editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, said that when people are reading content in print the consumer is paying high attention and the ads are part of that experience. As she said, it's not just about ads "not appearing next to horse porn" it's also "about what the consumer is doing around your ads".

In regards to context, the panel - chaired by MediaCom's Adam Crow - said that it has become an increasing crucial factor for advertisers, both in terms of ensuring brand safety and optimising effectiveness. "Context has really come back into fashion", said MediaCom's managing partner Pauline Robson. "People want to understand where the safest place for them to be advertising is... [and] clients want to know what that media will do for their brand."

However, Newsworks' Denise Turner added that while brand safety is paramount, it shouldn't put people off advertising around hard news in a quality, professionally curated context: "It's OK to appear next to hard news... people are not stupid, they know that hard news can be tough."

On the subject of quality journalism, Mills described Donald Trump as "like Viagra for the journalistic profession" as people seek out well-researched facts from established news sources. "Real journalism is difficult... it's a massive slog" she said, referencing the level of research which went into The Sunday Times' award-winning FIFA expose. The aim is to "sift through the facts" and "tell the story in a way that people are going to read it". Hewat, agreed that journalism is as powerful in today's society as it has ever been: "As long as human beings are doing mad, bad, dangerous things... [we] need nosey, curious people paid to find out what's going on."

Across the board the panel were optimistic about what the future holds for newsbrands. "There's great evidence proving that the movement away from newsbrands has been overplayed... aligning that with new PAMCo data is a very powerful proposition", Hewat said, although he cautioned that advertising often "falls into the trap of 'let me do what's just been done' rather than being curious enough to try something new".

by Jessie Sampson 06/09/18

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