Video Transcription Example And Format

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[Start of recorded material at 00:21:29]

Facilitator: [00:21:29] Thank you.  So let’s turn to the panel then and the discussion.  Pretty distinguished and balanced panel.   Two journalists, two executives, one guilty pleasure.  There we are.

DP: [00:21:40]  Aren’t you lucky?

Facilitator: [00:21:42]  It’s the smile.  Far right, we’ve got David Pemsel who is the CEO of Guardian Media Group and the Executive Chair of the Guardian News and Media.  As the man who delivered the Guardian’s first full brand campaign in over a quarter of a century – it was called The Whole Picture – he knows a thing or two about how you position a newspaper and engage with the public.  He has also experienced at first hand the Guardian’s international strategy, the roll out in the US and Australia, so he brings a point of view about precisely how you leverage a news brand globally.

On my far left, we’ve got John McAndrew, who is the Director of Content for Sky News.  In John’s role, he has a pretty unique view and responsibility for Sky News’ journalism across all platforms, television, online, radio and mobile devices.  Most recently he launched Sky News’ weekly unmoderated discussion show, The Pledge.  He currently is overseeing a small and rather [00:22:42] trivial news story at the moment, the EU Referendum coverage, so we’re very pleased that he’s spending some time with us here this morning.  Perhaps a bit of an escape.  He’s a journalist who has edited many major live shows for Sky, including the first ever Leaders’ Debate during the 2010 General Election.

To my left, Katie Vanneck-Smith is someone who worries about getting paid for news. As Chief Customer Officer and Global Managing Director International for Dow Jones, she is responsible for the commercial performance of Dow Jones’ consumer and corporate brands, services and products. These include The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Media Group. She oversees customer engagement, acquisition and retention worldwide, and is also responsible for Dow Jones’ businesses operating outside of the US.  She has seen at first hand the hewing of the traditional news business by digital at Dow Jones and previously as CMO of News International then, now News UK.

[00:23:42] Stephen Hull is Editor-in-Chief of the The Huffington Post UK.  He is responsible for all editorial output and standards.  This is a pretty mean feat when you know that alongside his team of editors and staff he has 14,000 contributing bloggers, all of whom are collectively creating hundreds of news articles, blogs and features each week.  Before Huffington Post, he was Head of Content at Metro.  He was the man who set up Metro’s website, so he’ll have a particular take on the shift from destination websites to the world of distributed content.  And that probably is a good place to start, actually.  So you saw the stats from Nick this morning.  51% using social media as a news source weekly; one in 10 using social media as the main source; even higher for 18 to 34-year-olds, I think it’s 28% with Facebook dominating at 44%.  So a really big shift in the last year.  Maybe I can turn to you, David, first.  Everyone’s fighting for control.  You’ve got this very powerful intermediary in the guise of Facebook.  Is it a friend or foe for you?

DP: [00:24:47] I think when I’ve spoken about this before, I just generally don’t think you could be in the digital business without trying to determine the fact that Google and Facebook and others are going to be frankly both, aren’t they?  And I think you’re going to see them as a threat, because there was a statistic recently that came out of the US in the first quarter of 2016.  85 cents of every dollar spent on advertising went to Google and Facebook, so therefore they’re the most erosive threat that you can ever imagine with that statistic.  And then at the same time, we enjoy huge amounts of referral traffic from both, and actually, if you’re minded to – and particularly with a brand such as the Guardian – it is amazing how the Cheryls and the Marks and the                         Eric Schmidts and others have a vested interest in understanding the role of the Guardian’s purpose in the world, and so therefore we do find ourselves in very sort of philosophical meetings with them to try and understand their role and the dissemination of what it is that we do.

Now, once you’ve got all over that well-meaning stuff at the beginning, and then you start getting into, “What does it mean commercially?” that is a real [00:25:47] challenge, and I suppose it’s interesting how still in these documents we talk about newspaper brands.  I don’t recognise the term, frankly.  I mean, I think it’s more about that those organisations that enabled the Guardian to go from ninth largest newspaper – there were 10 – now to third, fourth in the world, and that has happened as a result of having a very open and distributed and a strategy about virality.  And I suppose if, as an organisation, you embrace that – of which we do – I at the moment in partnership with Kath Viner, our Editor, we enjoy that reach, we enjoy that influence on the world.  I’ve just come back from the West Coast and there’s not a single person in the room who does not appreciate what it is we do, and most of that’s via Facebook.

The economics of that, though, are very, very challenging, and at the moment, I take the reach, I take the influence.  I think we’ll come on and talk about Messenger and the role of personalised content in a second.  But they are, at the moment, I say more friend because I can see the influence and growth across the world. 

Facilitator: [00:26:48] What about the culture, though, in the newsroom because, of course, this is a big change, where you’ve got these intermediaries now who are serving up your contents rather than … you know, it wasn’t that long ago that it was news stand only, then it was the website in your destination?  Now there’s even less control.   How are journalists responding?

DP: [00:27:08]  But I think two years ago, I suppose you could have been on a panel such as this and you would have had the debate whether newspaper brands are getting it digitally.  That conversation for us within the Guardian is well and truly over.  We don’t sort of talk about digital this and paper that.  In the end, we are ultimately an organisation that is obsessed about getting our content to people in the right environments, which makes you frankly relevant to whatever platform is available. 

I think the challenge when … and there’s no challenge with editorial.  I mean, every single article within the Guardian is written for mobile, so they will see on their screens a mobile format before they do anything else, which means they have to think about, you know, the reader and the viewer and how that headline relative to picture and video will translate into that space.  So there’s no tension in terms of digital.  At the heart of every journalist, there’s an ego which is about being read by multiple people, and obviously that distribution [00:28:08] affords them huge reach.  So I don’t see there’s tension there because most of this, all of the stuff in this document, completely validates journalism and the need for independent, strong storytelling.  That’s not at question here and everyone wants that.  I think the challenge of that is how does one convert that reach and all of the assets and tools that these providers give you and turn that into cash, which obviously we’ll come on to.

Facilitator: [00:28:32] John, can I turn to you?  You’ve got 5.3 million Likes on Facebook.  Not you personally.  Well, you may have, actually.  You might have more than that.

JM: [00:28:38] I’ve got more than that.

Facilitator: [00:28:49] It’s quite possible.  No, I was, of course, talking about Sky News.  Is that good?  Is that a lot?  Is that not enough?  Should it be 10 million Likes?  What are you doing with those Likes and how does it support your business?

JM: [00:28:53] Well, it helps us get our best journalism to the widest possible audience, and while you talk about the sort of promiscuity of the audience, which is increasing in terms of the new sources they want to go to, what you have to make sure is that you’re reaching as many people as you can with your best journalism, and this is where specialism and quality and trust become really, really, really important.  Now, I mean, Facebook for us … I mean, I take issue with some of the things in the report about video views.  We’ve seen ours go up absolutely hugely over the last sort of 18 months, and on Facebook, particularly, as ever with Sky, where we do our big business is when the big story drops, and if you take a story like the Brussels airport attacks recently, the video views through Facebook and, indeed, the referrals to our site were absolutely vast. 

So what that’s meant for us is completely rethinking our editorial               [0:29:53] commissioning process, our deadlines through the day, and actually our first meeting of the morning now, rather than thinking about the sort of conventional television package which has dominated our output for 25 years,  looks at what kind of video production on our best stories we can do that will suit that audience that’s looking on Facebook and looking at the app, which has been – I mean, you mentioned it just briefly then – a huge cultural shift, because Sky News was, as you’d recognise, a rolling 24-hour television news channel that, yes, it had a website and had sort of various offshoots.  What it’s become now is, you know, a producer of digital first sort of content.  Now, the television news channel is, and will continue to be, the sort of spine that runs through that, but our audiences are shifting and, actually, what we’ve got is hundreds of thousands of people looking at videos and articles on the app when before they would come to the channel, particularly in the daytime.  So [00:30:53] you shift your resources accordingly.

Facilitator: [00:30:54] And presumably on video, it’s a statement of the obvious, but people are being drawn to video that adds value to a story.  So you’ve given the example of Brussels.  Of course, people wanted to see the immediate aftermath in moving pictures.

JM: [00:31:09] Yeah, I mean, video is what we do and we’re finding an audience is there. What we did formerly was put what is essential television commissioned content on to a digital format and it didn’t work.  People don’t tend to want to watch what you might call a conventional three-minute news package that you might expect to see at teatime.  What they want is stuff to be quick – which we’re good at – and we’re good at turning round fast news with the best pictures attached, and what they want from our more considered stuff is the specialist content, really. The analysis, the exclusive report from a foreign correspondent, the pictures you wouldn’t get to see anywhere else.  Or if you take a story, you mentioned, you know, the Referendum.  What you need when there’s so much information or misinformation flying about, what you want is, you know, maybe a specially commissioned graphic video sequence with an Economics Editor telling you what actually the Chancellor’s really talking about, and that does well for us.

Facilitator: [00:32:06] So Stephen, thinking about the Huffington Post, it’s a balance, presumably, between the reach that social media gives you, plus some commercial opportunities as well.  Which way is the sort of scales tipped at the moment?  Is it towards reach over commercial, or are you seeing commercial revenue come through as well?

SH: [00:32:26] Yeah, I mean, I think the first question you asked was about seeing Facebook as a friend or a foe, and we probably see it as more part of the family.  You know, we’re a company that was started on the internet, as was Facebook, and we really work with them and lots of other digital brands as partners. My team, it’s about 40 people, so it’s a lean team probably, compared to the guys that you’re working with and at Sky, and they’re producing … you know, it’s a church and state arrangement.  So they don’t produce commercial content.  My guys are producing original journalism, by and large, and that’s where they’re focused, so the commercial side of the business, you know, we have a Branded Content Team, and that where they produce … but my team is about creating original content that shares on the internet and, you know, words like, “trust” and “quality” are really fantastic to hear and then, of course, people are always going to buy into trust and quality. But the internet culture is very different, and I think the most fundamental thing is, does it share?  Do people want to do something with that piece of [00:33:26] content when it’s on the internet?  And as John rightly says, TV content doesn’t share on the internet, and people don’t engage with it in the same way, and so huge brands which have the access to the best content in the world – and there’s plenty of them out there – really need to understand that the way they tell the stories needs to be really different from the way they’re telling them for probably the heritage brand that they work for.

Facilitator: [00:33:49] Katie, your products are behind a paywall, right?  How do you think about social media then in creating access given that, of course, there are a certain number of articles that you can get for free but, beyond that, it’s not a world of full discovery?  How is social media helping your business?

KVS: [00:34:11] So I kind of find the whole debate a bit too binary, actually, because it sort of goes back to if you think about being a marketeer, you’re always told, “Volume or value,” or, “Reach or relationships,” or, “Destination or distribution,” or, “Algorithm or editor,” or, “Newsfeed or edition.”  The answer’s both, because you have to understand what your business model is and what’s driving your business to be able to then engage in all these different things.  So we’re very clear, we’re a subscription business, we’re a membership business, we’re in growth.  We don’t see the same trends that the reports show of sort of payment for news being something that’s not in growth.  We grew by 200,000 subscribers and members last year and we’re continuing.  We’ve made a public statement that we’ll get to three million subscribers in three years.  I’ve got half a million to go, Ed.  I might be fired in 12 months, but let’s see.

Facilitator: [Unintelligible: 00:35:01].

KVS: [00:35:02] We’ll all be there.  So it comes back to this balance, right, and so we’re very clear what our business model is.  Our business model is about subscription and working with these partners.  So, you know, as David said, friend or foe.  I mean, I think if you’re clear what your business model is as you go into these conversations, you’re very clear about how you experiment.  So take Facebook.  We don’t behave in the way that many other publisher brands do with Facebook, so we don’t put all of our content in Instant Articles.  We’re very clear about what content we would put into Instant Articles.  So in Instant Articles, for example, we’re very clear that the content that converts the best for us for subscription to that audience is tech content.  So we only publish technology content into Facebook IA.  It’s good for us because, actually, the demand for advertising in that segment is high so it gives us greater reach for our advertisers, but ultimately the business decision is made around, “Will it drive to conversion and subscriptions?” 

[00:36:02] It’s why we only put five stories a day in Apple News, because until Apple News has a business model that works for publishers – which they announced this week at their Developer Conference that they will be rolling out subscriptions capability finally in September – you know, again we’ve been experimenting, we’ve been learning, but we’re not going to go all in like we are with Flipboard, where you can read all of the Wall Street Journal in Flipboard because you can authenticate your subscription relationship through that platform. 

With Google, there are lots of different relationships with Google, actually, but for us, the relationship with Google, you know, with AMP, with the AMP product was great, because they sat down with publishers and they worked with us, and I think the experiment there, whilst it’s not really core, it works with our subscription platform so it works into subscriptions, and actually we learn a lot by experimenting.  So these guys are really good at speed, they’re really good at designing mobile first, and I think by working and             [00:37:02] experimenting with these partners you learn a lot as a publisher.  But go in and know what you’re trying to do with each of them.  So our relationships with all of them are different.  It’s not one size fits all.  And actually, we do a lot with Snapchat, and I like Snapchat.  Some people don’t.

Facilitator: [00:37:12] Tell me why you like Snapchat.  I wanted to come on to that.

KVS: [00:37:14] I like Snapchat because it’s an edition. I’m in control of my edition.  It’s a product where it has a beginning, a middle and an end.  That’s what I do, that’s the kind of relationship that I’ve had with my readers for years, and he Wall Street Journal in Snapchat reaches a completely new audience.  You know, the monetisation strategy is still early days, although they’ve just done some fantastic new redesigns of the product and they’ve built an API to make it easier to buy advertising through that. But as a publisher, you talk about losing the brand.  Snapchat is not an open platform, it’s a partner platform.  It works with partners that it wants to work with.  The commercial terms still need a little improvement – we’ll work on that – but ultimately it’s a beginning, a middle and end.  It’s the edition versus the newsfeed and I like that.

Facilitator: [00:38:04] I mean, you’ve just described a kind of ruthlessly precise segmentation strategy –

KVS: [00:38:09] Yes.

Facilitator: [00:38:10] – where you have thought very, very clearly about each individual platform and what you want to serve up.  Do you think you’re in a small category of media companies that have done that compared, maybe, to others that have kind of thrown everything at the wall?

KVS: [00:38:27] Yes. The Wall Street Journal, like the FT, pioneered paying for content because they believed at the point at which the internet sort of first time round sort of disrupted us in the sort of late 90s that … well, they actually had B2B businesses that said, “Don’t put up your content for free, because you’ll kill our B2B business over here.”  So we created this myth that people will only pay for business content.  It is a myth.  People pay for things they value, right?  So, you know, the Journal and the FT for years were out there on their own, and then other people sort of thought, “Oh, well, we’re niched by language,” so a lot of the Europeans then sort of, like, thought, “Well, actually, you know, the Googles and the Apples, they’re not coming for us,” and they built up really good businesses and they were niched by language. 

The Times, which I’m very passionate about, because I worked on launching the membership proposition there, you know, was told it was an idiot in 2010, when it put itself up as a kind of paid for digital business.                              [00:39:27] The Times is now profitable for the first time in its history, it continues to be in growth for subscriptions.  It is not about being niched, it is about understanding what your customers want and what they want with you as a destination.  It’s not either/or, it’s both.  You can still be a destination and people will pay for you if you create things they value.

Facilitator: [00:39:47] David, do you regret not going behind a paywall?

DP: [00:39:49] No, not at all –

Facilitator: [00:39:50] Why not?

DP: [00:39:51] – so I think it’s really interesting –

KVS: [00:39:52] You do have a paywall, you have membership.  Come on.

DP: [00:39:56] Katie and I do do this.  We’ll now start having rows in a second.  So I think one of the points is … and I think you need to sort of step back for a minute and I think Katie’s right to say, “What business are you in?” and I think clearly people judge the Guardian in various ways about, “Are you a business, are you an institution, or are you just something that just loses a shed load of cash?”  And I think that what we are constantly, constantly doing is treading the fine line between what it means to be a strong, independent news organisation that has the confidence and the conviction to do Panama Papers, to do Edward Snowden, to talk about the web that we want, and all these other fantastic, culturally important stories that actually impact society and culture across the globe. 

And I think it’s really important sometimes to step back and just work out, before we start determining and segmenting the role of each one of the platforms, everyone who goes into the Guardian from an editorial point of view, their sole purpose is to ensure that we hold world                             [00:40:56] government individuals to account.  And I think we sometimes lose sight of what these news organisations are about.  Now, the challenge I have, and the challenge the GMG Board has, is to how one can create a sustainable business model – and by sustainable, have a relationship between income and cost, not a new term – and we have to therefore navigate that very careful balance between … I could stick up a paywall tomorrow and I could then probably run the entire business based on an ARPU model and feel very comfortable that I’d got a certain number of subscribers giving a certain amount of revenue, and when the next Edward Snowden decides that he wants to sacrifice his liberty to be able to bring a critical story which is about how data works and impacts us all in the world, he is not going to come to the Guardian because we’re talking to 10 people.  And so we have to get the right balance between the stories that impact society and the way in which these platforms work.  And we tread that balance, and some of it sometimes might [00:41:56] sound a bit philosophical, but in the end, that in partnership with Kath, is this very unique organisation.  And when we sit with the likes of all of those platforms, in our mind we are trading off the power of destination and distribution, and given what we are here to do in the world, that distribution strategy is to die for because it allows us to tell the bigger stories.

KVS: [00:42:17] Yes, and it has to find a way to deliver $100 million of revenue to your minimum to pay for your editorial costs.

DP: [00:42:25] That’s right.

KVS: [00:42:26] So you do have to … I’m not sort of … and also, it’s not about people just coming to you with stories.  I mean, our job is, yes, that is one way that our journalists get stories.  The other is investigative journalism, right? And paying for great journalism, you know, you still get great scoops in papers that are paid for.  FIFA, all the exposures, you know, that’s not the right argument.  The argument around journalism is all journalists go into journalism to hold people to account and to tell the stories that matter, right?  And you can do that, whether you are a paid-for membership proposition because the great thing about these distribution platforms is that they’re basically a sharing economy.  So if you have journalists and you have members, you can tweet, you can share, you can share your stories, and if you’re a membership business, those act as an invitation in.  You can still get the reach scale influence that matters –

DP: [00:43:18]  So where we might bizarrely be able to find –

KVS: [00:43:19]  – and you can still investigate stories.

DP: [00:43:20]  – where we might be able to find, bizarrely, some common ground between what we’re talking about is that we do … I think where I would admit the Guardian as a group has definitely been very obsessed about the big number, that 150 million browser number, is something that does validate what we do and does support some of, you know, the purpose of why we exist.  The trouble is, it becomes a very blunt number and actually when one starts to scrutinise what a browser is, you know, you can take that big number divide it by devices, and suddenly, actually how many readers do you genuinely have? 

And it’s great credit to our new editor that she’s obsessed with relationships.  She’s obsessed with actually really understanding it.  It’s your point about the Likes thing on Facebook.  What are really the metrics now that determine a relationship and a reader?  And so we have over the last 12 months put a huge amount of effort, both in capabilities and skills, to understand what an anonymous to known strategy might be, because in the end, one could sit back [00:44:20] and look at the 150 million browser numbers and say, “How many of them do you know?  How much of that data is informing your business decisions?  How many of that data is informing or enabling advertisers and agencies to use our platforms, etcetera, rather than others?”  And we have made great progress now to start using language which says, “What is a frequent user?  What’s an active user, and in the absence of a paywall, conversion and funnels are absent in businesses like ours.”  But actually, over time, we will start to look at what conversion means, and conversion means frequency and engagement, which does drive multiple business models than just the gargantuan number of anonymous reach, which doesn’t serve anything.

Facilitator: [00:45:00] So there’s another, of course, big, free media in this country, the BBC, and John, I wonder if can turn to you to ask you about that?

[End of recorded material at 00:45:00]