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Wall Street Journal sales boss: Branded content will never be a dominant revenue source

Fellows speaking at the INMA World Congress

Fellows speaking at the INMA World Congress

The head of global media sales for the Wall Street Journal has downplayed the potential of branded content as a major revenue source, despite predictions it could double in the US in the coming years.

Trevor Fellows told the World Congress of the International News Media Association summit in New York there was a limit to its potential, despite a prediction from the Boston Consulting Group earlier in the day that the US$12bn spend would more than double to $25bn in the next five years.

Asked by Murdoch Media’s Matt Handbury if there was a time when half of a newspaper would be branded content Fellows said: “There is not a snowball’s chance (in hell) that that is going to happen.

“We all like this content – I think the New York Times has done a cracking job – but it’s a lot of work for the client, it’s a lot of work for the publisher.”

Fellows said there was a perception that it was cheap and easy, but argued this was wrong and that many of the case studies being cited could not be easily repeated.

“I disagree with that perception,” he said. “It is cheaper than a TVC but everything is cheaper than a television commercial… I think this is going be growing, but I think one of the big challenges is that when brands are all talking about the same thing it changes the equation.”

Neal Zuckerman

Zuckerman speaking at INMA

In a presentation earlier in the morning entitled “Transforming print media and growth drivers” Boston Consulting Group’s Neal Zuckerman had trumpeted the potential of branded content.

“Where do we think the next source of growth could come from?” Zuckerman asked. “We think branded content.”

Asked how big it could get he said: “It is a (potential) US$25bn market… the question is how much risk do you want to take. It is risk/reward.”

Zuckerman asked the publishers in the room which of them had more than five per cent of their revenue coming from branded content, and said many were missing an opportunity.

“If I was a marketer I would balance reach and frequency, but you obviously want to create content that entertains and engages,” he said.

“If I was to estimate where it was to go to I would guess it could get to 25-30 per cent of some clients’ spends but I wouldn’t bet it would go beyond that. “

Nic Christensen in New York

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