“We Will Never Tell A Journalist What To Write” – Nine’s Aimie Rigas On How Data Is Shaping News

“We Will Never Tell A Journalist What To Write” – Nine’s Aimie Rigas On How Data Is Shaping News
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Aimie Rigas is a new breed of newsperson. She and her colleagues in the news publishing industry are using data science to shake up how news is developed and presented. Their aim – to drive greater engagement with written news content and the ads contained within.

Vanessa Lyons, CEO of ThinkNewsBrands caught up with Rigas, director of audience growth, publishing at Nine to better understand how to use data to drive news engagement.

Vanessa: Hey Aimie. So, data can be a bit daunting for some people. Can you sum up what it is that you do?

Aimie: Sure thing. For years, publishers were reliant on the gut feel of journalists and editors to make their stories and content as engaging and interesting as possible. Honed by hours and hours of writing and consuming news that gut feel is still very important.

But now, with the power of data, publishers across the industry are taking a more scientific approach to making content as interesting as possible. That’s what my team does for Nine Publishing. We use data and insights to help our journalists and editors make their stories as engaging as they can be, so they can have the intended impact.

We will never tell a journalist or editor what to write, but if they believe it’s important enough to share with our audience, it’s our job to make it interesting.

Vanessa: So how does it work? What do people like you in the industry actually do?

Aimie: We use hundreds of performance data points taken from thousands of articles to learn what audiences like, and what they aren’t engaging with, then help optimise stories and content pieces. We work directly with the newsroom to determine things like the best length of an article, what format a piece of content should be presented in, which images would work best, and what time of day the piece should be released.

Our role is to be the voice of the audience in the room and make sure what is produced is finely tuned for their habits and preferences.

Vanessa: Impressive. So, what’s in it for advertisers?

Aimie: Well, at a basic level, more engaging stories, leads to more attentive audiences and more lean in moments for advertisers. Effectively, we’re boosting what is already a highly engaging medium.

That means we’re also able to help advertisers more directly with their campaigns too. That’s where my colleague Ashleigh Thomas, Head of Commercial Growth, comes in.

Our teams work closely to ensure that the newsroom, marketing and commercial teams are accessing the same insights about our audience.

Vanessa: How do you do that?

Aimie: In a sense, it works in reverse. Because we can tell what audiences like engaging with, we can help advertisers choose where and when to run their ads on our platforms and how to structure their campaigns.

We can get pretty specific too. Which content, themes, format and time of day. For example, there’s a clear distinction between when our audience is on app versus desktop – and that differs between brands.

You name it, there are hundreds of insight areas we have data on that can help advertisers tailor their campaigns and drive greater engagement and ROI.

And this is just one type of data that publishers have relating to content engagement. There is also incredible psychographic and behavioural data capability.

I think the strength of the industry’s first party data, held by publishers, isn’t that well understood by advertisers and it’s definitely underutilised. And what’s more, it’s something we’re doing all the time, so it’s wrapped in as part of partnering with us.

Vanessa: So just finally, what’s next for you and your colleagues?

Aimie: Well, our journalists and editors are getting pretty good at optimising their own stories using the data dashboards we’ve created, so I think it’s about looking to the future and where this can go.

Part of that is balancing a more personalised experience with our expert curation, tapping into everything we’ve learned and continue to learn. It all improves ROI for publishers and advertisers, while giving the newsrooms the independence they need to do what they do best.

It’s an exciting time for me and my team and for news publishing in general. And I think we’re only just getting started.

ThinkNewsBrands helps advertisers and their agencies understand how advertising in today’s news content drives real business results.

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