The Times listens to its audience - it's time others did, too
A view from Celine Saturnino

The Times listens to its audience - it's time others did, too

Brands who understand their audience behaviour are those that are really able to deliver success to both consumers and advertisers, says the head of media operations at Total Media.

Following ‘intensive customer research’, The Times and The Sunday Times have merged their websites and relaunched them with a focus around "editions" rather than rolling news. This means that the app will only be updated three times a day, with a renewed focus on analysis and comment.

Their research suggests that quality of insight is what the audience are looking for as a priority over the most up to date information. The new strategy would seem to make sense for their audience and is almost definitely a more efficient way of running the business, rather than having to manage constant updates. 

Practicalities aside, we are seeing that brands who understand their audience behaviour are those that are really able to deliver success to both consumers and advertisers. The Times is showing great insight into how and when their audience are accessing content to be able to deliver the optimum product whilst also considering the commercial impact of trying to be all things to all people. Total Media focus on an in-depth understanding of audience behaviour to deliver market leading planning - essentially investing in understanding the psychology and motives of the target audience and buying accordingly - so this move by The Times strikes a chord with us. 

As we have seen with other publishers, the opportunity to buy on a time basis is interesting as we know that the mood and interest of audiences differs at different times of day. It will be interesting to see whether The Times start to consider this time-based approach as they adapt their content based on a more in-depth understanding of not only when their audience are accessing the content but where they are and the context in which they are accessing it.

By ensuring that journalists have the time to focus on quality content versus updating existing stories, we may see people place higher value on the paywall leading to higher volumes and consequently the opportunity for greater advertising revenue overall. Another benefit we may see is increased dwell time on The Times and subsequently a greater opportunity for brands to engage with their audience. Media owners offering quality through a better-engaged audience will have more to offer advertisers in the long term: it works for us as an agency and is why we think this move will appeal to advertisers.

Longer term, as The Times audience evolves to Gen Y and Gen Z who are used to real-time information, they might find the model needs revising. One thing to consider for audiences in the future is that they won’t necessarily have news brands as their first point of call for breaking news. 

In a world of user generated content and the growth of video content on social networking, we can expect audiences to be using social media to find out about breaking news, so instead using the news brands for more in-depth detail and analysis following the event – in this world you could see The Times as a first mover in the way news brands will need to evolve to stay relevant.

The opportunity to be able to plan and buy media with more precision, based on the primary access platform of time of day, context and the audience, is exciting. This would seem to be a potentially sustainable future for news brands that offer quality content and premium brand environments when faced with competition of social and mobile platforms that are able to offer headline news in real-time.