Commentary

Publishers Make CMOs Key To Consumer Reach

The Washington Post this week appointed its first Chief Marketing Officer with the promotion of Miki King; her prior role was vice president of marketing.


Creating a new CMO role is notable as publishers adapt to a digital media market that Google and Facebook have come to dominate in a few short years. Publishers are taking a more holistic approach to marketing — it isn’t aimed solely at advertisers and media agencies, but the broader consumer audience.

U.S. newspaper advertising revenue peaked in 2006 and subsequently fell by about two-thirds to an estimated $16.5 billion last year, according to Pew Research Center. Digital subscriptions have help to offset some of that loss with circulation revenue climbing by 5% to $11.2 billion in 2017.

The New York Times this month also created a CMO role with the promotion of David Rubin from his prior job as head of brand. The company has an ambitious long-term plan to more than triple its digital subscribers to 10 million. Part of its branding push focuses on its value proposition for readers, or what makes its content “worth paying for.”

Hearst Newspapers in June hired Mark Medici from Cox Media Group as its first CMO, overseeing the marketing for 24 dailies and 64 weeklies, including the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle.

These media organizations have created CMO roles in industries that face growing pressure to demonstrate measurable results that justify marketing costs. It’s not unusual for larger organizations to see friction between their sales teams, which perceive themselves as rainmakers, and marketing teams that may be seen as another cost center.

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Publishers used to sell cheap subscriptions to boost their rate bases and expand their audiences to appeal to national brands. Many publishers used to give away their digital content as a kind of loss leader that supported the print business.

Digital subscriptions are now a main area of focus as publishers erect stricter paywalls on their websites, urging readers to pay for unimpeded access. That strategy is likely to become more widespread as publishers work to monetize their content.

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