Dennis Publishing centralises digital offering as it seals Buyacar deal

Dennis Publishing is pulling its digital expertise together under one division in the hope of sparking integrated strategies across its titles, an approach it will test on its automotive content following the acquisition of online car dealer Buyacar.

The transition is reflected in the rebrand of Dennis Interactive to Dennis Digital and its greater control over content and commercial activity.

Where the previous digital hub managed websites and its Enterprise business controlled apps, the publisher’s revamped offering will centralise the two as well as take responsibility for acquisitions and its programmatic plan. Dennis’ magazine app technology platform Contentment will also be managed from the unit alongside in-house agency Adnostic and its native creative solutions arm.

The restructure will be completed early next year once a board has been formed to oversee technical delivery across the business. The division's expanded remit is in response to how digital was once a fraction of revenue but has now matured and “needs to be more central to the way we run our business,” said Pete Wootton, managing director of Dennis Digital.

Much of the growth in 2014 has come from apps and display, according to Wootton, and next year's plans will prioritise programmatic and native advertising alongside offering better campaign metrics for advertisers.

Digital now accounts for 25 per cent of the publisher’s revenues and jumped 13 per cent year-on-year between 2013 and 2014. Around 60 per cent of the advertising revenue now flows from online channels and this is set to rise next year through Dennis Digital’s push to promote integrated packages for advertisers.

“[Digital] is so fundamental to the future of the business and increasingly it's interlocking,” said Wootton. “If you take our app strategy then it's increasingly looking at how it relates to our responsive web design and mobile web strategy. If we don’t look at these things as being intertwined then there’s a risk of chasing the same audience in two different ways.”

Improved automated trading is one of Dennis’ tactics to lift revenues. But the publisher is wary of jumping wholeheartedly into the programmatic arena and has warned the technique could erode the value of display ads and force the industry to turn to content-led solutions instead. It is why the business began storing and analysing data on a data management platforms (DMP) earlier this year, combining with demand-side-platform (DSPs) to purchase ads based on deeper insights.

Rather than leave advertisers without guidance of its programmatic network, Dennis is crafting tools to improve their understanding of the discipline. If an advertiser wants to reach an audience looking to buy a family-friendly hatchback for example, then they will be able to buy the segment directly from Dennis instead of having to extract it themselves from the data.

Wootton said: “We need to be more prescriptive about packaging up certain products which we know are likely to be interesting to advertisers and then give them options on how to use it. It’s about optimising our sites and audience extension. We’re looking at how we uncover those segments and then offer them up to our users externally.”

Dennis’ drive to identify additional audience segments feeds into a wider business play to seek out new revenue opportunities by creating additional services for its titles.

The publisher’s acquisition of Buyacar for an undisclosed fee last month was made with this in mind. Dennis plans to relaunch the online car retailer next year when it will be integrated into its Auto Express and Car Buyer titles, connecting the research phase of car buying to the actual purchase.

Wootton said: “Buyacar’s acquisition is about diversifying our revenue streams. It’s the idea of being able to bring in remote selling of cars. The automotive industry is one of the last areas that hasn’t been heavily impacted by the rise of online, particularly the transactional side. Primarily we make our money from advertising on [our auto sites] and what we’re trying to do now is leverage that audience and say ok what about fulfilling a transaction as well.”

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