‘Born in the newsroom’: Mike Connaghan on how News Corp has transformed its commercialisation strategy

News Corp

“There are always peaks and troughs”

News Corp has had a busy few years as it continues its transition from a print publisher to a digital news media company, with the commercialisation of its content arms a driving force of that change.

Leading News Corp’s transformation of its commercialisation strategy for the last two years has been Mike Connaghan, the managing director of commercial content.

Mike Connaghan was #44 on the Mediaweek 100 Power List, which can be read here.

Mediaweek caught up with Connaghan recently to discuss the major changes that have happened to the commercialisation strategy at News Corp and what that means for the future of the company.

“It’s fantastic that News is really going after commercial content,” said Connaghan. “They saw the opportunity there to create these divisions, and we’ve easily got the biggest commercial content business in the country – more clients are seeing the power of having an organisation like News. We’ve got the storytelling background, we’ve got incredible data, and we’ve got incredible reach right across the metro and regional markets in Australia. We’ve got the facility to actually deliver for them.

“It is such an important part of the mix now for clients that have this voracious appetite for content. We’re perfectly positioned at News with a history of being storytellers with a deep knowledge of the Australian audience. We have the ability now to really target those audiences, very tightly, for the clients and speak to them in either the voice or the medium that’s required.”

When asked about how News Corp effectively targets the right audiences for advertisers, Connaghan said that it’s about investing in new technology and data solutions to complement News Corp’s long history of content.

“That points to getting deeper in audio, video, and eCommerce, and we’re developing shoppable video in a world first. This complements the incredible power and ability of print. Coles Magazine, which we produce through Medium Rare is the largest circulated and the most-read magazine in the history of Australia. We’re still producing prints for Qantas, they were one of two airlines globally that continued to publish through the pandemic. More and more clients are coming to us for the full suite and end-to-end production. We were born in the newsroom, we’ve got that storytelling ability, and it is really important that we understand what makes Australians tick. That’s what the clients are loving. Now we’ve got the capacity to really deliver across the board.”

News Corp and the many businesses inside of it

Part of this potent commercialisation at News Corp is the several companies inside of the business that can service clients in-house. This includes the creative agency Roller, and the content marketing agencies Medium Rare, Storyation, and Suddenly.

In the past 12 months as well, News Corp has acquired 100% ownership of Medium Rare and Storyation which Connaghan said has helped consolidate a huge set of resources into one channel

“We have three content marketing agencies in the market now: Storyation, Medium Rare and Suddenly. Storyation is very specialised in the social area, Medium Rare is really an end-to-end publishing company. Suddenly is really reinventing itself as well, and we’ve got a whole new raft of leadership across all those three agencies.

“Two years ago, Suddenly was an on-campus business. Medium Rare and Storyation were off-campus. What we’ve done is consolidated about 150 commercial content producers from across the rest of News. We’ve formed a centralised production unit all across Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Geelong, Adelaide, and Tasmania. There was a spattering of people all across the business, so we’ve consolidated all of them under one banner in a commercial context. We’ve really pulled together a centralised unit, I baulk at the words centre of excellence, but that’s what it is.

News Corp Australia

In addition, to bring all of its content marketing agencies on-campus, News Corp has also invested in its video and audio capabilities, which Connaghan believes is essential to servicing the company’s clients. 

“We have acquired Visual Domain, Australia’s largest corporate video production company, which is working right across the board, both with our News clients and the opportunities that afford but also a huge slice of corporate Australia.

“Our newscast business, which is one of the top podcasting audio businesses, is not just helping News with its own audio products, but with clients and a slate of podcast and audio products.”

Connaghan said that this simultaneously robust and streamlined system, allows News Corp to ‘flex up and down’, depending on the client.

“We’re really organised through writing, art direction, design, digital and now in video and audio. When the clients come in and the briefs arrive we can really flex up and flex down. With that insatiable, voracious appetite for always-on content, most clients are not well set up to keep delivering that kind of content. There are peaks and troughs, to the needs around that content and we’ve got a really fantastic group of people that do it day in and day out.

“That comes from that publishing newsroom background and now we are supplementing that with extra creative resources and that specialisation in social and video, and the absolute need for audiovisual to be at the core of what you’re doing with all your content. We’ve pulled together vast resources from across the business into a centralised pool. We’ve got a workflow now, which really lands that work within that, but we’ve got the specialised resources in audio, digital, mobile, social and importantly video.”

During the conversation with Connaghan, he fittingly received an email on a current project that he said perfectly represented what News Corp can do for its clients in an end-to-end service.

“I was just looking at an email about a client which came in through the direct sales channel out of Cairns that came to Suddenly, they needed some long-form content and off the back of that they needed an ad campaign. We went to Roller and they’ve just presented yesterday and we’ve done the business for them end-to-end. We planned the media, we’ve built their content plans for long-form and social and now we’ve developed their advertising campaign.

Data and News Corp’s CDP

At News Corp’s D_Coded event in May of this year, the company announced a new Customer Data Platform (CDP), one of the largest in Australia. In partnership with Foxtel Group, Streamotion, and REA Group, News Corp Australia launched the new CDP in July, combining the force of the networks’ first-party data. Connaghan said that this helps News Corp to assist its clients in achieving greater monetisation alongside shoppable video.

“This gives an amazing opportunity there from the data perspective to help clients actually monetize those audiences through shoppable video which is a bit of a first. We were just over at the Salesforce conference in the states presenting that technology, which has come via Visual Domain and a partnership with Vudoo. The clients are excited about that and we’re out there delivering shoppable video campaigns and really helping clients with their e-comm strategy directly to consumers.”

What is next for News Corp’s commercialisation

When asked about the future of his division, Connaghan said that the goal is to keep growing.

“There are always peaks and troughs in all of those things but we’ve just got to get out there and tell our story, and tell it well for clients. We’re winning in the market and our clients are entrusting us with more and more of their marketing budget. That’s really what we’re about. We’re not just after a media relationship, we’re not just after an advertising relationship we really want to talk to clients about their marketing needs and really help them with not only their content but their commerce. If they succeed, then we succeed.”

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