Q&A with Kim Portrate and Michael Miller: Does the industry need the Premium Content Alliance?

This week, it was revealed Think TV and News Media Works will merge to form a new organisation: the Premium Content Alliance. The move, it was said, would simplify life for marketers and enable premium media organisations to better pitch their purpose and performance to advertisers. A number of questions remained though.

Here, new CEO of the organisation Kim Portrate, and inaugural chair, Michael Miller, talk about why they believe the organisation makes sense, which other organisations could get involved in the future, and if News Corp has any difficulties pitching itself as 'premium'. They also address if more should have been done to get more women onto the board.

Kim Portrate, CEO of Think TV and now the Premium Content Alliance (KP)
Michael Miller, executive chairman News Corp Australia and inaugural chair of the Premium Content Alliance (MM)
Vivienne Kelly, editor, Mumbrella (VK)

Opening comments

MM: Increasingly we were having discussions across our various media investments that were shared in common. And so [we were] increasingly seeing those two organisations trying to achieve shared outcomes, and in line with our digital brands as well, similar for the shared objectives at an industry level, and thus the opportunity to bring them together, which is not just from a business point of view, but particularly from a marketer and an agency point of view that they’re asking questions across various media, whether it be research, insights and understanding the dependencies between both.

So thus the Premium Content Alliance is really moving where our clients as well as where our businesses are.

Members of the Premium Content Alliance

KP: I reckon the key thing for us as we start a new decade and the world continues to change, the shareholders have come together and really are looking at new ways to collaborate, and while this is definitely an independent business, there is a real need from the market – and we’ve been having these questions asked of us for the last couple of years, around premium content, around multi-channel marketing, and what can we do to help marketers and agencies understand how we can help them drive business outcomes.

So this new organisation is very much a marketing business, it’s very much a research business, and it’s going to come together to serve I think advertisers really well, because they want to know where they can place their brand advertising or their retail advertising in places that are trusted, in places that are transparently measured, and ultimately places that deliver business outcomes. So that’s kind of the mission for the new business.

VK: I wanted to know, were there other organisations that you approached? I know there’s a similar one in the UK and The Guardian is involved, and I note that they’re not involved here. Were there meant to be more people? Why the ones that are involved, and why not the ones which aren’t involved?

MM: Maybe the first part of answering that is the shareholders of News Media Works have been Nine Group, Seven West Media and News Corp, so existing shareholders, and with Think TV you’ve got Foxtel Media, you’ve got Ten, Nine and Seven. So it’s the shareholders of those two organisations that have come together. So, no we haven’t considered others. They weren’t part of existing organisations either.

KP: What I will say is, this has never been done before in Australia. As far as I can tell with the global scan, an organisation that involves this many media owners as a representative of the total media owners has never been done before, so we’re trying something new.

What I will say is others can certainly become members, but give us a chance to get our feet on the ground and our legs under the table, and then once we’ve done that, certainly we are open.

Premium Content Alliance’s Structure

Membership is available to others, but we need to get started first. That membership will be limited to ad-funded premium content providers. And we would welcome certainly additional members, but give us a chance to get organised.

The other thing I will say is the existing businesses that work with us like Think TV New Zealand and News Media Works in New Zealand will also be represented by the group, because those arrangements don’t change.

So, short answer is, because we’re doing something new, different, and let’s face it, fairly significant, give us a chance to get going. And it’s not limited. We will certainly be open to conversations with those that would like to be members, provided they meet the criteria of the organisation.

VK: Because for example, Nine obviously encompasses Nine Radio now, I was wondering if you would be open to other radio organisations and other radio brands getting involved at some point?

KP: Look, certainly we recognise that radio is premium content. As I said this is a big piece of work that we’ve been wanting to bring to market to respond better to our clients. So let’s see what happens after July 1 when we get our pens and pencils on the desk and get going.

VK: One thing I did notice, Kim – and you know it’s both my favourite topic and my most hated topic, but I have to bring it up – but you very much stand out in the list of of people on the board, in that it is mostly men. Do you think more needs to be done to get that gender balance on the board?

KP: Look, I think I’ll probably go back to the purpose of the business, which is research marketing. If you look at this business, well, I can’t say for sure because we’re obviously working through some pretty sensitive HR issues, but certainly there are a number of women in the business.

Portrate: We need the right people for the job

From a question point of view, I think we have the best people to represent those particular channels and areas as we move into a four-business format. We need to focus on getting the job done, and I think that that’s probably more prevalent, more important given the challenges that advertisers and clients have got.

VK: Michael, there’s been a bit of a sustained campaign in the consumer world about News Corp with the lie-in outside Holt Street [and other examples]… Do you have any concerns about that bleeding into this when you’re pitching yourself as premium content, or do you see that as separate because that’s more consumer side?

MM: I suppose I’m wearing my hat as chair of the Premium Content Alliance today. In terms of your question, does it impact premium content? No. We have seen better than seasonal growth on our sales, and no impact on our run rate for consumer subscriptions either.

We have long been targeted by smaller groups and activists. The business impact consumer side is not there to be honest. It’s not even marginal.

Miller: News Corp is fine

… Our credentials, our legacy and the positioning of our brands, they are definitely premium. And our results show our growth in the premium digital subscription sales.

VK: One thing that’s often said is that there’s too many industry bodies. Do you think that by bringing these groups together, that helps overcome that problem? Or do you think we still need to reduce the number of think tanks and industry bodies and representatives out there?

MM: Where it makes sense. And this makes sense. This isn’t an objective around reducing industry bodies, it’s really a matter of meeting market changes and market needs. There’s no grander plan to change other aspects of the industry, and we will continue to work with marketing businesses and agency partners to ensure we get the best results that they need to make the right decisions.

KP: I wanted to jump in there as well. I actually think that the alignment of the media and under this common structure is actually going to help us help the industry. It will give us an opportunity to conduct much larger-scale research projects surrounding the effectiveness of different premium channels to deliver better results. So I actually think this is a great opportunity to be more effective, rather than a rationalisation exercise. Actually, the purpose it to be able to do more for the clients and for the advertisers.

VK: Does it have any implications for the existing staff of News Media Works? How will you guys come together?

KP: We’ve been working for months on getting a really clear plan together that give internal staff certainly the first opportunities. We’re certainly working with a candidate pool from Think TV and News Media Works. The ambition is obviously to hire the best people for the jobs. But if we don’t have internal candidates, then we can go to market, but certainly the idea is that the candidate pool will come from the existing organisations.

VK: What is the one takeaway that you want marketers to have when they absorb this news?

MM: From a marketing perspective, this makes sense. It helps them make better decisions through an integrated conversation, and every campaign at the moment is multi-media. That’s the way they’re thinking, that’s the way our organisations are thinking, and this makes a single conversation a lot easier for them to plan, to understand the dependencies and the relationships, and they’re going to get a more effective outcome.

KP: Just harking back to my own expertise as a CMO, the one thing you want in a changing world – and that’s not just media, that’s technology, that’s product and consumer behaviour – what you really want to do is make a really well-informed decision about where you’re investing what is probably the most sizeable chunk of your budget and that’s media.

So I actually think if I was hearing this news as a marketer, I’d be thinking ‘This is great that I’m going to have access to deeper, richer research and insights to help me make a decision, but ‘m also at the back end going to be able to measure exactly what the impact is’. So I think what we’re doing it making life simpler in a complex world the for marketer, and their agencies as well.


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