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Future of Media Media Reuters

'There's no room we shouldn't be in': Reuters CMO on evolving the 168-year-old newswire


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

March 2, 2020 | 8 min read

How do you reimagine a 168-year-old newswire business for 2020? Reuters chief marketing officer Josh London asked that very question when he joined the prestigious media giant last year. And just nine months into his “dream job” he’s already orchestrated a major restructure of his team to see it through its next two centuries.

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Reuters, as part of media conglomerate Thomson Reuters, delivers news products, analysis, multimedia and data to consumer and corporate clients, be it the Reuters site, media partners, or TV, social media and bespoke apps.

It is probably most often associated with its famous newswire, while that business generates a small slice of revenue it arguably drives most of its brand recognition and trust. “Reuters is first in so many ways. Our reputation, our trust, our history, our speed. It is great material to work with as a marketer,” said London highlighting its 2,500 journalists in 200 locations.

Across its financial analytics product, its news agency, its professional business, its consumer relationship and its newly acquired events business Reuters Events (formerly FC Business Intelligence), it is a rapidly diversifying and complex business and as such, there’s a lot of noise to cut through.

To support this increasingly complex business requires a marketing department fit for purpose. “We need a world-class marketing organization that supports our world-class journalism,” said London.

“We want to balance the art and science of our business and be more data-focused. We want to be faster-moving and test and learn from our approaches. We need to simplify our offerings, unify our messaging, and then clarify that to the market, both from a marketing and a strategy perspective. That feedback has to go to editorial too”.

Last week, London announced a number of hires to his division, operating under a new structure, that he hopes will propel it into the next phase of its growth. Veteran marketer Buddhika Amis joined from Pearson after stints at brands including Visa Europe, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC Bank, charged with leading its strategy while Phil Andraos been lured from company’s customer insight team to lead its product marketing and go-to-market processes. Meanwhile, Quartz marketing director Katie Ingman has been brought in to lead its global and regional integrated marketing teams. Juan Mejia even joins from the precious metals sector to guide demand generation. These appointments join Alexei Milgram, data and analytics director, and head of comms Jamie Austin. It’s still hunting a corporate marketing director.

These new leaders sit atop teams built around specialized capabilities, the previously vertically siloed structure adapted to something more global and horizontal with regional flexes. London said the marketing department is moving away from the “long lines of business so many businesses once had” and that “customers now think of data and audience, rather than through the lens of brand".

“We have a super-powerful brand globally but how it is understood, differs regionally,” he added. “Then we think about product marketing and what our proposition is for different audiences.”

Forming its spine is the data and analytics teams, that London claimed, isn’t just offering a retroactive look at performance but is now helping to predict leads.

“We wrote an algorithm that compares 17 different factors. It is a 'fish-finder' for opportunities. And then we marry that with some other data work that we've been doing around what messages and propositions resonate the most.”

For instance, it can study a customer based on their data profile, the strength of their relationship with Reuters, and how often they engage with the content. Once a ‘likely candidate’ is identified, it runs through a human filter.

“The latest data saw we're actually getting very tight.”

Aside from all the intelligent machinery looking to find and upsell clients, there’s storytelling to undertake.

“So if you think about our history, we've always been known for speed and innovation. These are new ways that we're doing the same thing.”

Talking about the technological advancements of Reuters is one thing, but tech partnerships can really show the strength of its offering.

Its ran misinformation courses with Facebook, its seeing the fruit of its labours on Twitter video financially, and it provides 45,000 stories a month to Amazon. On the potential of voice in particular: “With our objectivity, our freedom from bias, Reuters is the perfect vehicle to power AI, we don’t have left or right leanings or national leanings. It is completely objective reporting. And we're really proud that the economist and others have cited us as the most trusted news brand.”

From talking to London, it is easy to contrast the agency’s marketing efforts with the likes of the New York Times, which is standing on ‘The Truth is Worth It’ platform. This creative-led approach might better suit a premium news title like the NYT, but for Reuters, brand awareness is key, and getting the content out into the world proves the quality of the work.

Take for example Reuters Connect, its a digital news platform that is accessible via subscription or via a new points-based spending model, Reuters Points. This two-sided marketplace offers paying customers in a variety of different ways to consume. Accessible content dates back all the way to 1896.

“We try stuff quickly with little resource. If there's a spark blow on it, and then once we've proven it pour gas on it, turn it into something that's scalable on a global basis.” He concluded: “The reality is, there's not a room in the world that Reuters doesn't deserve to be and we have all the assets we need to really be strong in this market. And now we're just going to put our foot on the gas.”

Between 2008 and 2018, Thomson Reuters completed over 200 acquisitions, for subsidiary Reuters, the changes have been less dramatic, but following the purchase of the events business in October 2019, you could expect it to seize at "additional opportunities for growth" in the coming year.

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