World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Bringing digital marketing into the newsroom

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Bringing digital marketing into the newsroom

By Mun Yin Liu

This should be common sense, and it is no surprise that media outlets have rushed to join the masses on digital platforms in attempts to acquire eyeballs and engage with audiences.

In Kuala Lumpur this summer, I had the opportunity to spend two days with 50 editorial, commercial and marketing executives from five countries to discuss search, social and content strategies and share with them digital marketing skills and tactics.

I was keen to bring content distribution further forwards in editorial teams' minds and wanted to give these 13 newsrooms a clearer perspective on how input from alternative sources can give further insight into content production. I felt that marketing teams could work more closely with editorial teams and find common goals to work towards.

Since compiling my presentations and reflecting on the discussions and presentations of the other speakers, here are my current thoughts on the challenges facing news media when it comes to digital marketing.

Aligning customer expectations with what you're delivering

Content producers must move beyond attracting readers – publishers are businesses too. Thus, you need customers, and customers consume products. For publishers, content is the product.

Changing a mindset to think about content as a consumable is no easy task. But it needs to be done, and to help, consider the customer purchase journey.

Understanding the customer goes beyond listing out a set of demographics that describe age, marital status and household income.

In fact, I encourage going as deeply into their shoes as possible, building up customer profiles that also cater to the fact that they will have challenges to face and aspirations to achieve.

By thinking hard about these types of issues, the hope is that your content will be geared towards a common goal, and help your customers overcome their challenges and fulfil aspirations.

The next part of aligning expectations involves making sure that you're delivering content using the right methods.

The content type and the distribution channel must be compatible, because if they're not, then you're likely to be capping the potential success of the campaign.

Open collaboration between different departments

This probably should be a given anyway, but there was some sheepish acceptance in the room that departments are not particularly good at collaborating and communicating with one another, and this is no different in my own personal experience.

When running digital marketing campaigns, we need to recognise that, there is a lot of really good information that can be gained from listening to the audience and interpreting what they are doing.

When this information is packaged in the right way, the marketing teams can feed this into the newsroom in such a way that does not end up sounding like they're telling the editors what to write about.

Let's be honest, nobody wants to be told what to do, or how to do their jobs. But that is not the point. Oftentimes, the marketing folk simply want to express what the audience is favouring and how this could be used to generate further content idea suggestions.

Search engines and social networks provide a lot of really good sources of information on this. There is so much information that can be gleaned from campaigns in these channels that could be used: from exploring copy performance to looking through target audience demographic data.

With the right interpretation and packaging, this has the potential to really help the newsroom, along with aligning with customer expectations.

Being good at setting objectives

It is important for us to also try setting objectives or goals. This applies not just from a campaign to campaign basis, but also to the point of making sure that content packages also have a clear purpose.

Being clear on what purpose the content has gives direction to all parties involved, including marketing and product teams.

Giving campaigns an objective simply means that you have a focal point to hone in on. You will know what your strategy needs to achieve, and how your tactics can help to make that a reality.

Having unclear objectives will just confuse matters and can lead to scattergun tactics that do not make sense.

Ideally, the campaigns' and products' objectives should roll up into the corporate objectives. Of course, these need to be quantifiable actions measured via a website or app.

Working with product and data teams, it is possible to achieve business objectives by developing methods to increase your opportunities for a greater number of website conversions. A/B testing and specific conversion campaigns are tactics to help all of this come true.

Improve search and social engagement

These will not be the only ways in which editorial and digital marketing teams can work more closely together, but I do feel that they are steps in the right direction.

These should be a starting point, and with continued dialogue, evolving goals and stronger customer understanding, digital marketing in the news industry can start to flourish.

About the author

Mun Yin Liu is Search Director of Wavemaker in Hong Kong. He was the lead trainer for the first WAN-IFRA digital marketing summit in APAC called "Increasing reach and engagement: digital marketing strategies and tactics for news content," which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 7-8 August. His previous roles include Digital Marketing Director at the South China Morning Post, Online Product and Marketing Manager at Haymarket Media Group, and Marketing Manager for CNNGo.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2019-10-10 12:06

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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