UK newspaper turns to readership for new marketing direction

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 – As part of an effort to revamp its digital marketing strategy, The Guardian is tapping its readership to conduct market research and apply that insight to how it promotes its content.

“Before, we used to focus on promotional-led marketing but (as) the market evolves, our approach has to evolve,” Chris Lawson, the content sales and marketing director for The Guardian, told MarketingWeek. “We realize the importance of our direct relationship with our audience. Collaboration and participation are parts of our philosophy and our great content is being improved by our audiences.”

In addition to combining its own editorial content with that created by readers, the newspaper plans to spend £2 million – approximately USD $3.16 million – on top of its existing marketing budget to create a nine-person team of “digitally enabled marketers with classic (direct marketing) skills.” The company hopes to be able to gauge the direction of the market, create a deeper understanding of what the audience is looking for and learn how it can cross sell and upsell, Lawson told the source.

Another aspect of the news and media company’s “digital-first” mission is to aggregate data about its users as they access jobs, dating, subscription and application information into a single database, MarketingWeek reports in a separate article. Guardian News and Media told the source it aims to use the market research to build a “single customer view” that will lead to more efficient marketing and communication efforts.

The media company’s customer insight and data strategy director, Andre McGarrigle, told the magazine that as it collected the information on its readership, it would make privacy and data security a priority.

He said that a portion of the digital strategy would be making the transition to a direct model, and that “in order to facilitate that we need to treat user data properly to ensure that distribution [across platforms] is correct. What that means is tailored, targeted [communications of] subscriptions, timely content and more appropriate offers and services.”

The company’s efforts to reach its audience through a variety of channels may help it stay relevant and tuned into a wider range of demographics. Jack Loechner, writing for MediaPost, points to a recent study on American members of the Millennial generation, which revealed that the younger set is more exposed to marketing campaigns with a social media element, and older consumers still receive promotional material through direct mail and newspapers.