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Lord David Puttnam: Online commercial strategies have 'actively damaged' news and information relaying

Oscar winning film producer, Lord David Puttnam, digital champion to Ireland, has warned that news delivery and information relaying is being ‘actively damaged’ by greedy online commercial strategies, while speaking at a conference held by Bite in London.

In an interview with The Drum, Lord Puttnam shared his views on the variety of techniques being used by online media sites to drive revenue, some of which he believed were intrusive, such as the BBC, which he claimed had extended the length of its online adverts.

“There’s obviously an enormous scrap for eyeballs, there’s also a scrap to make sure that the business model is sustainable and there is a tension in trying to pull together those two. There are examples where it has been solved and there are other problems where it could be becoming trickier,” Lord Puttnam explained.

“I live on the west coast of Ireland and use the BBC [Worldwide] website and what I have noticed is the adverts that BBC is putting onto individual programmes are getting longer. Now no one has admitted this, no one has warned me, but they have moved from 10 seconds, to 20 seconds to sometimes 30 seconds. What you have got is a creeping issue and a lack of transparency and also a lack of dialogue with the BBC trying to up their revenues. On the other hand I’m a punter and sooner or later I will move off,” he continued.

Lord Puttnam cited the advertising strategy of the New York Times as a “remarkably unobtrusive” model he felt worked, but added that the consumer was not being given options over how they received the information they wanted and that there was “an extraordinary lack of transparency and resolution” over the matter.

He cited micro-payments as “a great solution” but said that what he saw happening was media brands looking to for both subscription fees and advertising fees together.

“An agent many years ago told me in the movie business ‘my job is to take as much money off the table as I can, irrespective of what it does to your movie.’ It wasn’t his problem when he was damaging my film by taking an extra $1m off the table for his client. My concern is that we are looking at something not dissimilar - that through the desire to take as much money off the table by commercial brands, we are reaching a point where the world of information is being actively damaged and that would be very unfortunate,” he warned.

Lord Puttnam also discussed the issue of content pollution and stated his belief that storytelling was not something that advertising agencies and brands had yet to crack.

“I’ve never seen that as a stream of activity…I’d be very surprised if there were graduates coming out of media courses who had been told that their principle job is storytelling. I would be very surprised. They are being told that their job is impact,” he stated.

Lord Puttnam was speaking at Bite’s breakfast session, Stop Content Pollution, media partnered by The Drum, which examined the growth in the amount of content from brands that is bombarding consumer with marketing messages that are being lost as a result.

The full video interview can be watched above.

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Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze and producers Harvey Weinstein and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

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