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Trinity Mirror’s Zoe Harris on why marketing should be a priority at newspapers

In the struggle to offset crumbling business models, newspaper publishers should focus on how marketing can make content meaningful to their readers rather than just producing articles, warns Trinity Mirror's marketing director Zoe Harris.

While many of the speakers at IAB’s content and native event reiterated that “content is king” and that good content is the solution to the many problems facing the industry, Harris believed that marketing rigour is what will help newsbrands keep advertisers and readers keen in print.

It’s why Trinity Mirror has combined its marketing and creative solutions into one unit, which Harris manages. The publisher believes removing 'traditional' ad sales silos and putting marketing at the centre of the commercial model will help it better scale its creative resources for the benefit of its readers, and improve its sell to brands.

"We believe as marketing gets more and more sophisticated and as consumers are practically deluged under this sea of never ending stuff from newsbrands and through brands themselves, it is really important to put marketing rigour at the heart of how you develop those ideas about what is important to brands," Harris said.

She said marketers often fall into the trap of overinflating their brand and forgetting the point of providing something meaningful to consumers: “As marketeers it is often really depressing to remember that most people most of the time don’t really give a shit about brands that we spend our whole lives living and breathing.”

"We spend a lot of time thinking about not just making content but what will make that content meaningful to the audience that you are trying to reach. For us as newsbrands in particular it's about how we can create a connection between the audience and the relationship they have with our titles, and with the brands that we are working with to create some of this stuff that can be really impactful...that can actually create behaviour changes," she added.

It's a realisation many newspapers are coming to terms with. This year has seen more publishers creating senior marketing roles, a move they hope helps them to wrestle back control of a customer experience increasingly happening beyond their own platforms. With more publishers having to cede traffic to the likes of Facebook and Google, their riposte is to stake future growth on their ability to market their intimate understanding of their readers and use those insights to create new products and services.

To that end, The Sun’s launch of betting site Sun Bets is part of News UK’s attempt to marry its content and commercial offerings by building out brand extensions for each subset of its audience. The Sun hopes through its betting site the brand can act as a “one-stop-shop” for its huge sporting audience, giving readers no reason to leave the site should they want to gamble, as well as providing advertisers with a highly engaged and targeted audience.

The efforts to leverage marketing are gaining ground. Rufus Olins, chief executive of Newsworks, an industry body that represents British newspapers including the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Guardian, told The Drum the national press is now so strong in digital that it has more users in the UK than Google and the advertising "pendulum is beginning to swing back to those brands you can really trust".