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Digital ‘first’ doesn’t mean digital ‘only’


CNN International’s Petra Malenicka on being innovative in a digital world that still has plenty of appetite for traditional TV viewing.

“Digital first” is a term that could be misunderstood as being anathema to international news networks which have spent decades building credentials and mass audiences through predominantly linear TV offerings. But new research out today makes interesting reading for media owners and advertisers who want to understand the multi-platform role of the world's biggest traditional media brands.

Each year, the Ipsos Affluent Survey Europe results have media owners and any advertisers interested in reaching upmarket audiences poring over the latest trends in pan-regional media consumption and habits.

Usually it's to see who's up, who's down in terms of audience reach and which devices are in vogue amongst the continent's upscale consumers. But this year's findings are more interesting - they give further credence to the argument that established brands can not only survive, but thrive, in the digital world.

The Ipsos data shows that 61% of Europe’s affluent audience watch an international news or business TV channel every month, with this figure rising to 67% reach when digital is included as well. The multitude of digital platforms and ways to access news content is strengthening our proposition, not weakening it.

‘Digital first’ content  

As always, there's plenty of context behind the statistics. For me, it's clear that whilst TV networks and brands aren't necessarily digital natives like Buzzfeed or Huffington Post, we should still be alive to the fact that "digital first" works in many content areas.

The strategy will change for different organisations but for us at CNN International it's only natural that in some circumstances a particular news story or interview is best broken online, themed TV shows may have exclusive digital or social media components, or we use our CNN Money digital platform to dive deeper into business verticals.

None of this “digital first” activity detracts from the premium TV offering. In fact, the opposite is true – there is significant benefit in having a greater number of touchpoints for consumers to connect with content.

This might not sound like rocket science since cross-platform promotion and digital extensions for linear TV have been around for years, but the crucial shift that's taking place is that we’re now seeing more examples of pan-regional media powerhouses increasingly committing to digital content ahead of, or separate to, TV.

Bespoke commissioning for platforms such as Snapchat Discover, thinking from the get-go about how shareable a piece of content might be on social media or how it can translate to our apps for mobile and smart watches is now all part of the everyday workflow.

Not just for millennials

Investing in a digital first strategy is all about reaching audiences in a way that suits them. Digital strategies from almost all media brands and advertisers are targeted at millennials, but we’d be foolish to ignore key demographics such as the c-suites and business decision-makers.

Interestingly, the Ipsos study shows that these important audiences are flocking to news on digital platforms as well as watching our output on TV.

The Ipsos Affluent Survey Europe found that around half of all the continent’s c-suites (49%), business decision-makers (49%), luxury consumers (40%) and frequent international travellers (55%) connect with CNN on TV or digital every month – figures that are significantly higher than if we didn’t have such a strong digital presence. 

In a world of many devices and platforms, turning on the television might not be the first reaction when big news breaks or if a busy executive wants to browse the latest business headlines. For this reason, as well as having the right content, media owners need to be on a proliferation of digital platforms - online, mobile, social, wearable tech, on demand, OTT - to complement the scale of having hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the globe.

Advertiser appeal

Consequently, integrated and digital-led advertising campaigns are fast-becoming the norm for brands hungry for carefully-crafted digital executions and solutions. The engagement of shareable and native content, the accountability of data-driven and programmatic trading, and the dynamism of new ad formats are all enabling advertisers to benefit from digital touchpoints as part of a wider campaign.

But it isn’t a case of TV vs digital - the two are complementary; traditionally TV-led with digital offshoots, but now, increasingly, vice versa.

Crucially, these platforms – particularly the digital touchpoints – now give media owners the opportunity to reach out beyond our own platforms. CNN journalism has always resonated around the world, but now our stories – whether they be editorial or commercial content – are amplified like never before through sharing on social media, embeddable videos on third party websites or clever tools such as Outbrain.

The digital footprint, supported by a magnitude of data, just got a whole lot bigger – for the benefit of the media owners and our advertisers. The march of digital has increased the impact of our stories, and those of our advertisers, far beyond even the millions of people who already watch and connect with CNN every month.

Digital has enabled us to throw open the windows of the room so that, as well as connecting with the CNN audience, our content and our advertising partners can be shared and heard all over the 2.0 world. 

‘Digital first’ vs ‘digital only’

What’s clear is that the trends for commercial and editorial content are going in the same direction. Similar to how editorial teams are developing bespoke, often digital-led, journalism and programming, so too are commercial operations working with clients on solutions across mobile, social, online and other platforms.

However, “digital first” doesn’t mean “digital only”. Whether it’s content from our editorial teams or commercial partners – audiences are more engaged on a platform that suits their need at any given time. This could be TV whilst at home, via mobile when on the move or online at the office.

In the year that CNN International is celebrating its 30th anniversary, the media landscape, technology capabilities and consumer habits are evolving faster than ever before. However, it’s our duty to audiences and advertisers to be innovative and platform-agnostic in a digital world that still has plenty of appetite for traditional TV viewing.   

Petra Malenicka, senior vice president, advertising sales, Europe and the Americas, CNN International



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