News International creates digital marketing “hub” as part of restructure

Lara O'Reilly

News International is investing in a new digital marketing hub that aims to integrate technologists with traditional marketers to produce products that are more responsive to customers’ digital needs.

The “next phase of marketing” will use additional funds to combine technologists, such as coders, with marketing experts to test, learn and bring to market new products such as social gaming and improve on existing products like the Sunday Times Social List.

News International chief marketing officer Katie Vanneck-Smith told Marketing Week: “Lots of publishers talk about ’digital first’, but it is a dated concept because it is already intrinsic in everything we do. Digital is now in every job specification, from customer service executives to marketers.”

The new team will explore how to make revenue from its currently free online products, such as The Sun, which currently does not operate behind a paywall unlike its sister title The Times.

Vanneck-Smith cites the success of The Sun’s Dream Team fantasy football game, which adopted a free version as well as a paid-for element this season, that has managed to attract 1.3 million registered users, as an example of a revenue earning mass-market brand extension.

She adds that as cloud-based technology becomes more commonplace and consumers do not feel the need to “own” content, as they currently do with music downloads or e-books, it will be more commonplace to pay for news in addition to brand extensions.

News International is also investing in a new digital editorial project, thought to be dedicated to sport and showbiz, and is currently recruiting for a 21-strong team of journalists to lead the new brand. Further details have yet to be announced.

The new six-strong digital marketing hub is forming as part of News International’s wider restructure, which will see the marketing team consisting of three separate disciplines: brand marketing, acquisition and sales and customer management.

Vanneck-Smith says: “We have now organised the marketing team around the customer to provide best in class programmes to help us influence and change customer behaviour.”

New marketing jobs will be created as part of the restructure, but roles that were previously duplicated between the separate Sun and Times brands will be made redundant. Vanneck-Smith says News International planned for “minimal impact” by not filling vacancies for the last 12 months to reduce redundancies.

She adds that the new marketing strategy will aim to ensure that customers feel the service, relationship and experience of engaging with the Sun and Times brands will be the best in the market.

“They will want to own it or be a part of it,” she says.

Read Marketing Week’s feature on the public’s “shattered” trust in British media here

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