The newspaper price wars of the 1990s may be just a distant memory,
but Fleet Street's finest are set to do battle on another, less
The battle lines this time are drawn around databases. News
International, proprietor of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and
News of the World, has appointed CRM consultancy Cole & Burey to create
new revenue streams off a single database for the media owner.
The NI move coincides with the Financial Times hiring its first head of
CRM, Dil Patel, signalling its seriousness about taking a single
customer view across a brand portfolio that includes the FT, FT
Business, FT.com and FT Conferences.
What the two developments have in common is a desire to leverage the
considerable brand equity in products like The Times and the FT to
create extra revenue via cross selling, adding value to ad sales and new
As Paul Hayes, The Times' general manager, explains: "We have come to
recognise the fundamental importance of consumer data within any media
group's strategy, but are unimpressed by CRM unless it delivers bottom
Where the NI and FT moves differ is the extent to which either media
group is prepared to take CRM beyond the core proposition of selling
The trailblazer in media CRM was the Telegraph Group, NI's arch rival.
David Cole and Tony Coad, two of C&B's three principals, established and
ran a lifestyle data and affinity marketing business for the group as
its full-time employees. The pair left last March to set up their own
CRM consultancy after strategic differences with Telegraph Group
Now C&B has taken its CRM blueprint to NI. It involves a radical
diversification for the media group, including a new data bureau service
for NI's advertisers, the collection of lifestyle data and the creation
of affinity products through partnerships with service providers such as
"We'll generate leads beyond existing newspaper products and find
services that the readership wants but that aren't being catered for,"
The FT says it will not go as far as selling lists but Patel stresses
that the publisher was already practising affinity marketing before his
arrival. He points to FT Mobile, a personalised phone service for FT
readers developed in alliance with Carphone Warehouse. "You can expect
to see more propositions like this, tailored to our reader profile,"
Hayes, another ex-Telegraph manager, believes NI can take CRM further
than the Telegraph Group did. "At the Telegraph we did lifestyle
questionnaires and telemarketing and were able to capture high quality
data. While the likes of Claritas typically get 4% response rates, at
the Telegraph we were getting 20% because people trusted the brand. I'd
argue that the brands at NI are even more iconic."
For its part the Telegraph Group says it remains committed to CRM, but
that it has pulled back from C&B's vision of it. "Our old approach was
to look for quick revenues from list rental as well as prospecting for
new customers for the rest of the business," says Anne Gowan, the
Telegraph Group's director of direct marketing.
Gowan says the group's emphasis is now more internallyfocused, in that
its database efforts are concentrated on boosting reader subscriptions
and broadening the age profile of the Telegraph reader.
But regardless of their different CRM approaches, the players appear to
agree on one thing. "If newspapers have failed to do anything in the
past, it's enter into a dialogue with readers beyond what we do in our
newspapers," Hayes says.