Claire Beale interviews Lloyd Embley at Media360
Aside from Liz Jacques’ summary of the Media 360 session for Newsworks, here’s Propeller’s five takeaways from the event.
1. Arif Durrani’s show of hands proved again medialand is in a bubble
With Arif Durrani opening the event asking whom reads Campaign, he unsurprisingly saw everyone in the audience raise their hands. When, as Asda speaker Claire Harrison-Church took the stage, far fewer said they shop at Asda.
Reprising the theme, fewer still said they read The Mirror, which would be at odds with Claire Beale’s description of Lloyd Embley as “one of the most influential figures in UK media” since the titles he edits are read by half the UK population: the middle-half ‘Modal Britain’ audience that sits outside adland’s media bubble.
Takeaway for media buyers: don’t underestimate the reach of media you don’t read yourself.
Show of hands suggests fewer media folk read the Mirror than shop at Asda. #M360UK
— Chris Mundy (@ChrisMundyLdn) June 4, 2015
2. Embracing digital has actually sustained the Mirror in print
The latest NRS figures, which puts Trinity Mirror Group second only to the Mail in terms of reach, underscores how far the paper has come in digital in a short space of time.
On taking the job, Embley explained the work that had gone into integrating siloed editorial teams, with even the Mirror’s own online team “sat over there, with the print guys thinking they were out to kill us”.
Off the back of numerous press awards in recent months, he outlined how The Mirror takes a different approach to breaking each story to create the most impact: in both commercial and editorial terms.
Citing the recent jewel heist story, a Mirror scoop for which the paper had exclusive CCTV footage “which works brilliantly online, particularly in mobile, less so in print”; the paper focused on a print splash but did a deal with the BBC’s News at Ten. “There was a plan, certainly I’m not going to scoop my own paper on Twitter.”
— Campaign (@Campaignmag) June 4, 2015
3. Embracing commercial does not mean compromising editorial
Referring to Trinity Mirror Solutions’ recent series of media agency roadshows, which Embley not only attended but used to host the Mirror’s editorial conference, Claire Beale noted the close & collaborative working relationships between Trinity Mirror Group’s editorial team, commercial teams and the board.
Whilst adding that “not being a commercial numpty” probably helped him land the job in the first place, Embley was clear that he was a “journalist and editor first and foremost” and rejected the suggestion that his influence may be waning in a media world where commercial revenues are harder to earn – adding that cover sales remain the largest source of revenue, which, like advertising revenues, rely on great content.
To illustrate the point, having checked on the whereabouts of the previous speaker – “is the Asda lady still here? …no? … good” – he cited the horsemeat scandal, which made the commercial team nervous initially, but ended up prompting a spike in ad sales.
— Liz Jaques (@lizjaques) June 4, 2015
4. The Mirror backs issues, not political parties
When asked what Labour did wrong at the general election, towards the end of a late-running session, Embley quipped “I thought we were in a hurry”, suggesting he backed Ed rather than David for the Labour leadership whilst at The People “for a bit of a laugh”.
Embley said Miliband grossly underestimated the importance of PR vs Policy, both in terms of relationship building and how the electorate would perceive him as a leader – and that “his ‘I don’t read newspapers’ comment to a room of journalists was particularly ill-advised”.
As for supporting the party going forward, Embley outlined the paper’s ‘intelligent tabloid’ positioning, adding that his audience shouldn’t be regarded as “the same old working class” but an informed mainstream audience, that would expect them to “back issues, rather than parties”.
— Campaign (@Campaignmag) June 4, 2015
5. He wants the Sun’s paywall to work, and may have an unlikely Tory ally in John Whittingdale
Trinity Mirror Group has taken its own commercial path with the establishment of Trinity Mirror Solutions, aimed at generating bigger revenues from digital advertising but also addressing media agency briefs with custom native adverting: a key contingent of which is reach. Similarly, with declining reach comes declining relevance.
Embley was clear on the need for solid revenues to support quality journalism and on the subject of paywalls “it works in niche areas, such as the FT, and I hope it works for the Sun” but pointed again to record reach figures, fuelled by slower-than-most declines in print and rapid digital growth.
When asked about the BBC however, he stated that in a world occupied by MailOnline and the BBC “we have to be free” and that the BBC’s scale makes it hard for commercial business to compete. While hardly an opponent of the BBC, Embley cited the resources, extent and depth of coverage on the BBC Sport website in particular asking “what does the middle B in BBC stand for? In my experience they do a fair bit of publishing too.”
As John Whittingdale pushes through major changes – including a reduction of scale and scope – as the BBC approaches charter renewal, it will be interesting to see what stance the Mirror takes.
Mirror’s Embley on the news business problem: ‘There’s a lot of places where you can get news but not a lot of places producing it’ #M360UK
— Arif Durrani (@DurraniMix) June 4, 2015