Why the ABC does not apologise for marketing its content

Leisa Bacon Today’s edition of The Australian newspaper sees the News Corp title criticise public broadcaster for purchasing keyword search engine terms in an effort to drive consumers to its news websites. In this opinion piece Leisa Bacon, director of audience and marketing at the ABC argues that its digital advertising is no different to its other marketing efforts. 

All media outlets market their content. Billboards, newspaper advertising, back-of-bus signage, publicity and promotions on TV and radio stations are marketing tactics all of us as audience members are exposed to daily. The digital space is no different.

This is simply the newest marketing arena. At the ABC we invest in creating strong, distinctive, Australian content and we want that content to be found by our audience.

When an important Australian story breaks, like that of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s passing on Tuesday, all media outlets, the ABC included, will publish content across their platforms. And like all other media companies, the ABC wants to ensure its content, which includes many years of rich TV, radio and print archives, reaches as many people as possible.

The ABC invests in Australian stories, content and conversations, often when others may not – we demonstrated this recently through our Mental Health initiative. In an increasingly fragmented media environment we need to help our audiences find and access these stories.

In addition, the ABC has a rich archive of content built over many years, across all our platforms. It is of great benefit to the public to be able to access this material. In a digital environment, search is critical  to help navigate this.

Search for digital is like the TV Guide is for broadcast TV. It’s how audiences find things when they don’t know where to look.  We need to have a presence, even though he ABC is fortunate to perform strongly in natural search.  We add some paid search to this when we have content that’s harder to find, or a depth of content which will be appreciated by our audiences. It is a cost effective way of reaching our audiences.

Across the keywords ABC bids on, we have a high average  quality score on search which enables us to bid efficiently. Hence the spend figure quoted by The Australian in relation to Gough Whitlam was grossly exaggerated at $10,000. The real amount was about one tenth of this, a small amount to spend to help audiences navigate years of rich content across TV, radio and news stories. This is the role of a public broadcaster, to share important Australian stories.

All companies act in this way, including other public broadcasters like the BBC, and frequently other government agencies, to help you find a service.

Finally the ABC understands it is part of a wider media ecosystem which is why we also promote other sites, both across the ABC network and other news sites.  For example, if you go to our Gough Whitlam news coverage, online links promote and drive traffic to other news sites, including The Australian. We do this because as a public broadcaster we understand the demands of our audience and the need for as much information as possible, regardless of the source.

Leisa Bacon is director of audience and marketing at the ABC 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.