Inside Press Gazette’s plan to take on America and Big Tech
Future News 73
It’s ambitious, but it makes sense. The UK’s leading news media-focused publication is setting its sights on big tech, data and America no less than 55 years after its founding.
The move is partly thanks to an investment from parent company New Statesman Media Group and an acknowledgement that the world of journalism is now broadly split between platforms and publishers.
The extra cash has seen Editor-in-Chief Dominic Ponsford go back full-time to the title and the hiring of a North American editor in the shape of Will Turvill, a former Mail on Sunday and City AM reporter who began his career at the Press Gazette and is now based in Vancouver, Canada.
Turvill has been tasked with taking the temperature of the North American news ecosystem, while covering the major developments from Big Tech businesses, namely Google/Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter.
“We feel that the future of media is going to be all about platforms on the one side and publishers, who create journalism, on the other,” Ponsford told FN. “Although this year has been a bit bumpy, we do think there is an incredibly exciting future for journalism because there is so much demand for professional content.”
How much content the platforms will eventually need is unclear, but Facebook recently announced it would move towards curation, something that it has avoided in the past. It is, however, a process that has been embraced by its business-targeted equivalent LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned professional networking platform.
Ponsford also claimed that Twitter and Facebook finally “crossed the Rubicon” over the US election cycle by taking a more “interventionist” approach, especially in reaction to misinformation from and spread by Donald Trump and his campaign.
The White House vote and the pandemic aside, it’s been a busy year for the Editor-in-Chief and his crew, including Freddy Mayhew and Charlotte Tobitt, who have also launched a new newsletter, Media Monitor, which focuses on “big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry”.
The launch, alongside the hiring of Turvill, was based on audience research near the start of the year which was used to help build a strategy that would allow the Press Gazette to “really grow and be a bigger business”.
Data, too, has been embraced with Aisha Majid, part of David Ottewell’s New Statesman Media Group data journalism team, interrogating audience statistics of news media outlets.
So, with all of these changes in mind, is it time for a rebrand away from the ‘press’ bit of the Press Gazette? It’s not something Ponsford would rule out, but he stressed that the current title has “lots of benefits”, especially when it comes to opening doors in the UK and US. “We do find that there is a lot of affection,” he said.
The title is probably best known in the UK for hosting the British Journalism Awards, an annual jamboree to celebrate the best news articles, features and other output. The pandemic forced the event online. But there were a record 900 entries for competition this year, with revenues still coming in from sponsors and entry fees while the “incredibly expensive” dinners were ditched.
Will we be witnessing the event go across the Atlantic anytime soon? “We would be interested to see if we can expand the awards…”
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