Video and branded content hold hope for journalism’s future, says Nine’s Helen McCabe

As publishers struggle with shrinking revenues from traditional sources, branded content and video hold hope for the future of journalism, says Nine’s digital content director, Helen McCabe.

McCabe was appearing on a panel discussing the future of public journalism alongside Fairfax group executive James Chessell and economist Henry Ergas when the talk turned to how media companies can support themselves in an environment where Facebook and Google are scooping up most digital advertising revenue.


“In advertising broadly, it’s very challenged,” McCabe said: “We’ve seen on the digital side of business that display advertising, in a similar way to print, is falling away while we’re seeing great increases in programmatic advertising. The growth is enormous, it’s highly targeted and highly effective but the CPM [cost per thousand] is small and so that’s where the native sponsored, deep relationship with clients becomes more relevant and which we at Nine Digital Business are getting very good at, particularly at working cross platform.”

Former Australian Women’s Weekly editor, McCabe joined Nine in 2016 to run its lifestyle properties. Shortly after joining, she unified the network’s online lifestyle titles under the 9Honey brand.

McCabe, who once described herself as “news journo’s journo”, claims there’s been a shift in young journalists’ attitudes towards branded content: “Internally we have lots of debates around native, sponsored which can mean different things in different mediums.

“So from the digital side of the business to the television side of the business, often we don’t quite know what’s what. Certainly our clients are demanding it and partly because they can spend much less to get much better outcomes just by advertising on Facebook, Google, etc. So when they do want to do some brand and hard retail work, then yes they want deep partnerships.

“Me as an old school journalist has had to do a lot of thinking about this and what this means. One of the things that is particularly interesting is the younger journalists following behind are actually actively wanting to do this as part of their career development, so I often have talented young journalists saying to me ‘I want to get into the space of branded content’ which is interesting for me to deal with.

“Again, it’s the land we’re in and its undoubtedly part of the landscape at the moment.”

Subscription also features as part of the mix for publishers with Nine planning on launching a subscription-based women’s platform, Future Women, led by former Mamamia editor-in-chief, Jamila Rizvi, later this year.

McCabe also flagged video as being an undeveloped opportunity for publishers: “What’s going on in video is really interesting. It’s not a simple answer,” she said.

“That’s a very exciting part of the storytelling environment I’m in and how to better utilise the assets Nine has in video content both for clients, for storytelling and for public interest journalism. That’s the situation we find ourselves in right now in trying to extract premium revenue dollars by better integrating the two sides of the business.

“I think you’ll see as we adjust to the landscape you’ll see publishers look to video as well to offer clients a better product.”


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