Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: News International is dragging trading into the 21st century

The fact that the industry seems to offer at least a cautious welcome to News International's plans to automate its trading system - perhaps with the ultimate goal of dispensing with the "cost per single column centimetre" metric - is surely a good thing (see Forum).

Finally, you would think, here is at least the start of a glimmer of recognition that there is little separation between content or ads delivered either in newspapers or on tablets. In fact, you could argue that tablet ads are rather more engaging.

It's difficult to argue with the fact that the current mechanism is outmoded and, moreover, makes the trading function cumbersome and expensive for publishers, agencies and, ultimately, advertisers.

With this move towards automated trading systems comes the inevitable streamlining of staff - no bad thing, if it enables people on both sides of the fence to have more fulfilling media careers than just dealing with invoice queries or monitoring where, or whether, their ads appeared. For agencies, too, unnecessary costs can be cut from their bottom lines.

With more than 17,000 clients and 320,000 ads booked every year, the new system should enable NI to reduce the time its staff spends administering them, hopefully allowing them to get out and sell the opportunities offered by its content. You can bet that other national publishers are looking at what the company is up to with great interest, or have already developed their own approach to market.

It's a shame that the auditors have yet to fully grasp what this change could mean to their advertiser clients - perhaps they have filed it in the "too difficult" box. While the move to a new language and a new trading mechanism for press is still in its relatively early days, it is happening and they would do well to engage. Perhaps, as I recently heard, they are too preoccupied with being beaten down on their auditing prices by procurement - an irony that won't be lost on many.

And so to Mick Perry, the first victim (of many?) of Jonathan Allan's new broom at Channel 4. To be honest, the surprise that met his departure as the head of airtime sales was noticeably more muted than that which greeted his arrival just 18 months ago.

Perry is a thoroughly decent cove who was once described as the best trader of his generation. The only problem is that his generation seems a lifetime ago. As a stop gap, C4 has hired Gary Digby, who was let go by ITV at the beginning of the year, to help steer C4 through the winter negotiations before a full-time replacement can be found. Although Digby might seem at odds with C4's outward culture, I can't help thinking that Allan has pulled off something of a coup in bringing him in - for this trading season at least.