Major figure at WPP, the advertising giant, says that advertisers are underinvesting in newspaper websites

Rob Norman

Rob Norman, the chief digital officer at GroupM, the WPP subsidiary which bulk-buys advertising spots, says that advertising haven’t caught up with what the public is doing. He’s an important player – he overseas the expenditure of $5 billion of digital advertising a year. He writes:

The irony… is that news organizations, those with their roots in newspapers as well as TV, have enjoyed an astonishing increase in consumption and now are far more current, enriched as they are by multimedia, by social media and citizen journalism. Furthermore their content is the most-shared across the internet.

This suggests something significant. Advertisers and agencies might take note. Digitally delivered news, both hard and soft, appears to combine reach, popularity, engagement and authority like no other collective of digital assets. And individual news outlets engage their readers and viewers frequently.

The uncomfortable truth, however, is that the advertiser has not followed the user. If ever there was a misalignment of time spent and the allocation of advertiser dollars, this is it.

As I write in The PR Masterclass:

Many of the conventional media publications have transformed, or are in the process of changing, into hugely popular destinations online. Newspapers such as The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The New York Times now have a global readership that, on a daily basis, dwarfs what they ever achieved in print. Martin Clarke, the publisher of The Daily Mail’s website, says of his site: “People are addicted to it. It’s like journalism crack.” Meanwhile, there are no signs that viewers are rejecting quality broadcasters. The BBC’s global audience hit 239 million people a week in 2012, up 6 per cent from the previous year.

I explain that, in addition to going online, the significant change is that the media is globalising. In particular, feisty British newspapers are grabbing eyeballs from tedious American rivals, which once had city monopolies.

American newspapers going bust or just being shut down has given some people the impression that the mainstream media is dying, but it isn’t true. The newspaper world is merely going through a process of what economists call creative destruction, and is being reborn. Advertisers, in my view, may have over-invested in social networks like Facebook, where people go to chat to friends, and in their “SnapChat strategy”.

Rob Norman’s article about news websites was written under the standfirst “Marketers Still Aren’t Putting Enough of Their Dollars Where Online Users Are”.

This tells me that there’s plenty more revenue for news websites to soak up – and with a top WPP executive saying so, it looks like they will get some of it.