Updated: May 10, 2020
At 11am on Tuesday 1st March I’m chairing a session called ‘Search: The driver for new content models’. The event organisers got in touch after I wrote a series of in-depth articles on search for the Daily Finance website, starting with a piece called ‘How the search industry changed us all‘. In it, I argued that search “connects sellers to buyers more quickly, more efficiently and in greater numbers than any other method has ever done before. It is measurable, transparent, truly global and constrained only by what has not been digitised.”
That fact has had a profound effect on publishing. It’s now possible to measure the market that is consuming what the media produce much more accurately, and to interact with readers in a much more productive and, possibly, profitable way. But, and this may be a point you want to argue, search has been regarded at best with suspicion by many in the media.
One of the people I interviewed for the series on search was Jim Brigden, now CEO of online marketing agency ISpy and a veteran of the European search industry who has worked in it since the early days of GoTo. As we discussed who ‘got’ search, conversation moved on to the media industry. Brigden said: “I think the media industry at some level understands search. And I think it is terrified of it. Search takes a lot of the mystique out of advertising because everything becomes measurable. A lot of media company value is around eyeballs and search puts a value on every eyeball. So the media industry is struggling, not because it doesn’t do search well but because its revenue models are withering on the vine. Digital marketing gives transparency to numbers.”
He concluded that “you’ve raised a really important point about whether there is a demand for a product or service. You can’t bluff with search.” The conversation came back to me as I pondered how to do the “session on search” that Publishing Expo’s organisers had asked for. So I contacted Brigden again and asked him if he’d like to speak. At first, he wasn’t sure, saying that his background was selling things rather than producing media. But we ended up agreeing that this would provide him with an engaging and original perspective to bring to the event.
With Brigden signed up for a session that would bring a digital marketing perspective to discussion at an editorial business event, I began to think of who I could get to provide a more editorially based perspective which also understood search and the digital space. And the name Malcolm Coles popped into my head. Coles is a former editor of Which? who now works as an SEO consultant and content strategist. His blog is a highly informative – and entertaining – resource and I’d seen him a couple of times at News Rewired events. He can always be relied upon to provoke thought and encourage people to look at things in new ways, and would be great counter to the suspicion, still held by many on the content creation side, that search threatens to take all the creative joy out of the business.
Coles was, at first, similarly unsure about what he could offer. Which convinced me I’d got the right people for the session. Two insightful, forensic and engaging experts who could bring highly original perspectives to a publishing industry audience and then get stuck into some constructive debate. I’m really looking forward to chairing this one.