I started as a rival diarist to Richard in the marketing trade press and then freelanced for national titles, before joining The Observer as a financial journalist and going on to be an award-winning Industrial Editor. More recently, I’ve had senior positions at the Daily Telegraph, as a regular columnist and leader writer and was editor-in-chief of a global news platform, which grew its traffic by 70 per cent in 12 months on my watch through premium content alone. In a commercial break, I co-founded (and named) the innovative media consultancy Luther Pendragon in the Nineties, which we successfully sold to its management. In 2013, I was co-founding chairman of Jericho Chambers, a radical alternative to communications consultancy.
I’ve been editor – or have edited – seven national newspapers, which I think must be some sort of record (Evening Standard, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Globe and Mailand Financial Times). That may be a grandiose claim – but it certainly feels like I’ve employed every journalist in the UK at some time or another! I’ve been editor-in-chief of Express Newspapers, I turned around the fortunes of the Globe and Mail in Toronto and, more recently, I was the launch editor for Newsweek Europe in print and online. I’ve run my own media consultancy with clients in Africa, the Middle East and India and currently run the world’s first “daily” current affairs teaching and learning website for schools, with subscribers in 21 countries.
Why top journalists are good news for content marketing
Call us content grandees or media gurus if you must…
We’ve certainly been around the block in journalism and post-modern communications. Perhaps we’re publishing sages – you can be the judge of that.
We change-manage media groups, we launch-edit and staff sites, we develop (and sometimes speak on!) media platforms, we raise funding for original start-ups, we generate on-line content and develop readerships, we sometimes broker media deals and we effect editorial regime changes where they’re needed.
Between us, we have more than 70 years’ worth of running media operations and have spent the last few years taking journalism and publishing into the digital era. It can be a painful process – just look at the state of some of our great national newspapers at the start of this century. But, to paraphrase Clay Shirky, the world doesn’t need newspapers – what it needs is more journalism.
That’s a revolutionary opportunity for our times. But in a new world obsessed with digital content and on-line traffic it can be hard to see the way forward. We’re your native guides, if you like – it’s dangerous to generalise in this alien territory, but for starters here are three golden rules:
Content isn’t about marketing – Or not principally so. The problem here is that the newish Content Marketing industry is run by marketers, not by people who know about content (or editorial as we used to call it). Your priority isn’t your brand, it’s your reader – and you have to give readers what they want to read, not what you want them to read. Or you won’t retain them, simple as that.
Content is complex – With the explosion of social media, it’s often said that now everyone is a journalist. No they’re not. It might be fairer to say that anyone can be a media proprietor. But no one will pay any attention if your content is dull, pointless or simply propaganda. You need to engage, to let other voices in, to tell readers what they don’t already know – in short, to entertain. That hasn’t changed.
Traffic needs calming – We’ve been over-excited by hits and clicks and uniques. That game is over. Analytics need to be telling you who your readers are, not how many there are. To reach the right readers you need to present them with the right content (nothing has changed there either). And here’s the thing: It’s what advertisers are craving, so it’s driving by the commercial imperative too.
MacIntyre and McLuhan: Both emphasised the medium over the message It’s over half a century since Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian mediologist, coined the phrase “the medium is the message”. By that, he meant that no means of cultural communication could be separated from the influences (and ownership) of the medium that carries it. McLuhan […]
Three decades ago, I defamed a knight of the realm in The Observer. We spent some expensive time taking counsel in chambers, where it was decided that we should settle out of court and apologise. “But it’s true!” I wailed, meaning my story, which was now to be withdrawn as a lie. My editor fixed […]
I like to think of Jesus saying to his disciples (who, in modern lingo, we might call his mates): “I was born in a stable, me”. It could have been a sort of Aramaic version of Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen sketch – a bunch of horny-handed northern Judean proles getting competitive about their relative hardships: “Luxury! […]