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Irish Times, NTM plan for their advertising futures

By Mark Challinor

INMA

London, United Kingdom

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Greetings from London, UK.

In the newsletter, I will be focusing on a couple of the topics we spoke on at our recent master class on The Future of Advertising Sales Teams. What are the some of the smart publishers around the globe doing about that? What will teams be focused on? What will be important to them and the advertisers they service? 

Plus, following on from the last newsletter, where we discussed how sales teams should be structured and compensated, I am following up this time with a kind of part two — on this occasion looking at what skill sets we will require from those future teams. I will be looking at leading Swedish publisher NTM to share what their take is and how they are shaping what they believe is a world class approach to the industry’s best sales teams. 

But first, let’s visit Ireland.

The Irish Times’ now, next, later strategy

The Irish Times in Dublin, Ireland, is looking to the future of advertising sales. They say their focus dictates that anything they do must reside within three dimensions: now, next, and later. 

Eimear Moran, director of media solutions for The Irish Times, explained the now, next, later strategy during a recent INMA master class.
Eimear Moran, director of media solutions for The Irish Times, explained the now, next, later strategy during a recent INMA master class.

Eimear Moran, director of media solutions for The Irish Times, says that means keeping sales teams focused on what’s needed now and next, while their managers keep their eye on what’s needed later. 

Whilst looking at immediate needs, such as making the budget, organisations need sales road maps and priorities. But they also need to look ahead to the following year’s budget and consider what verticals they might want to add.

Understanding all those needs is a team effort. 

“The knowledge for the now and the next will tend to come from our sales people,” Eimear said. Addressing the later space “might mean what products do we have today that we want a better version of in the future …  and how can I sell them in the future?” 

Identifying the needs in the “later” space means listening to, and learning from, key advertisers and industry benchmarks.

Advertising diversification 

The Irish Times has multiple platforms that allows it to offer advertising diversification. That means a traditional print advertiser could dabble in digital or try new things to see what works for them. 

It’s critical for news media companies to meet the needs of current customers even as they plan for the future. 

Today, media companies are given a broader diversification of product with more and more trends coming their way. But Eimear thinks that doesn’t change the fundamental structure of maintaining the foundation it creates today and then builds for the future for the next and the later. 

Diversification of products and platforms means sales departments can be the catalyst for change for the entire organisation. There’s a thought.

Sales teams should be asked what the organisation can do to bring value to the clients — and that should constantly be shared with the organisation as a whole, as well as externally as part of a consultative sell. For example, our insights from our own first-party data can be of tremendous value to an advertiser. They value insights they can’t get anywhere else and would even be prepared to pay a premium for it.

The cookie is crumbing 

As we all know, the coming cookie apocalypse plays a role in the future of advertising. Today, about 40% of Irish Times users are blocking ad cookies daily, and that number is growing. Eimear thinks soon that number will mushroom to 95%, leaving only 5% of users targetable by advertisers. 

The future of ad blocking looks very different because of cookie changes.
The future of ad blocking looks very different because of cookie changes.

“That is the very reason we have to move and move quickly and why the advertising impact is a catalyst for the entire organisation. Ultimately, what we explain is that with first party, we are offering a client privacy, scale, and trust. Those are the three things that we repeat constantly.”

Sustainability 

Companies can add value to advertisers by developing products, services, and campaigns that strengthen the relationship with readers and increase the amount of time they spend engaged. 

And, interestingly, to add to my last newsletter where The Guardian here in the UK talked about sustainable advertising, The Irish Times has also started offering sustainable solutions such as streaming technology that reduces data transfer by up to 40%, meaning less impact on the environment. 

The Irish Times is the only publisher in Ireland to offer it, and that has resonated with film distribution and car companies that want to emphasise their own role in sustainability. 

“Ultimately for us, the framework is about now, next, and later,” Eimear re-emphasised, “with a huge emphasis on trust, privacy, and the fact that first-party data for a news publisher is like gold to an advertiser.”

Sweden’s NTM reimagines its digital ad business

But what about the skill sets needed from those sales teams? 

After watching their ad revenue decline year after year, NTM Media in Sweden decided to stop this downward trend and start fighting back. 

About a year ago, they decided to start reimagining their business. 

The pandemic spurred a pivot in advertising priorities at NTM, Head of Operations and People Annie Lidjesjo told master class attendees.
The pandemic spurred a pivot in advertising priorities at NTM, Head of Operations and People Annie Lidjesjo told master class attendees.

The big thing for them was making sure they had every department filled with the right people. Head of Operations and People Annie Lidjesjo said they started to see the decline turn around.

The right people on the boat 

“One big thing that is that we have the right people on the boat right now,” Annie said. “We have the right competence and the right team that all wants to change this.” 

The pandemic, as we know, changed the share of the media pie. For Sweden, before the pandemic, they saw 54% of the ad revenue in the Internet business. And in two years, that has moved to 71%. Impressive. 

NTM has built a long-term plan for growth in the digital ad business.

Selling owned media 

“We had to have a big digital growth in our own channels. We needed to focus from selling Google, Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram to selling our own digital display areas,” Annie said.   

On the digital side, NTM focuses on increasing the number of buying customers. That’s not with a focus on the print side yet, even still they are seeing 10% growth in print.

Their goal is to have a completely digital business by 2026, which also includes the subscription business, Annie said. 

NTM is committed to this plan even though they had seen the ad revenue curve going down and they still have so much money in print. 

Focus, culture, and competence 

“You need to change the focus, the culture, and the competence of the people that want to do the change because you need to do so much every year so everything is always in change mode,” she said.  

And to carry this all out, what about those sales team skill sets?

NTM knows how important it is that the members of the entire team understand the business as a whole and not work in silos: “They can say, if we do this on the ad side, then we need to do this on the subscription side and on the technical side and with the journalists.” 

They also benefited from hiring a lot of new people on the tech side: “They’re focusing on getting control of all the ad inventory, all the traffic, and they are always trying to see new things that they can sell together,” Annie explained.  

What are their learnings? 

“I think we had been focusing a lot on how to fix the print business instead of focusing on the digital business. We need to change this focus and have people going that way.” 

Its not what got us here that takes us forward  

Selling better ads to the customers is the imperative for NTM. They subscribe to this idea, Annie said: “It’s not what got us here that takes us forward. We need to focus on new things. We need to stop doing some of the old things. We need to have 100% customer experience focus. We need to understand and know what the customers need. We need to have speed in everything we do.” 

Future thinking looks different than past thinking at NTM.
Future thinking looks different than past thinking at NTM.

NTM also encourages team members not to stop and think too much. They encourage the need to keep going, moving, and doing.

To grow, digital must be greater than the fear of losing print 

It is viewed that all 150 people who work at NTM media understand and work in the ad business area, no matter what their title. NTM has also put a lot of money in education for both sales reps and sales managers. 

“To succeed, employees have to be engaged and there’s a need to develop them. Above all, the mantra that drives NTM Media is: ‘The will to grow digital must be greater than the fear of losing print.’”

I wonder if that is your view, too? Do let me know? mark.challinor@inma.org

Acknowledgement: Thanks to INMA’s Paula Felps, Michelle Jones, Sarah Schmidt, and the whole journalistic team for their excellent reporting on the ad sales master class, part of which has been the referred to in this newsletter. 

Further reading

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at Inma.mark@gmail.com with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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