Rebecca Frank, Vice President, Research and Insights at the News Media Alliance, tries to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry that might be helpful for Alliance members. Her main focus is advertising. Coming from an advertising background, Rebecca tries to provide Alliance members all the facts they need about the advertising world so they can stay on top of all new initiatives and business. Her work includes building relationships with advertisers, supporting the Alliance members when they are negotiating with them, and understanding the different parts of the news business in terms of trends, marketplace, business models and more.
Tell me a little bit about what you do at the Alliance.
My main focus is researching the advertising field and everything that’s going on in that industry. I meet twice a year with our Advertising Advisory Board, where we have in-depth conversations and learn from experts in that field. We also have some research projects related to understanding the advertising business for publishers. Other work that I do is making sure that we, as the Alliance, can support our members when they’re negotiating with advertisers, and creating a better playing field for publishers. Our News Advertising Panorama product is designed as tool to help us, and our members, tell the right story about who is reading news and why retailers should advertise with news media. I also spend a lot of time trying to understand what’s going on in other parts of the business, whether that is subscriptions, the marketplace, or benefits of making certain changes to the business model and trying to keep track of all the twists and turns that happen every day.
What brought you to the Alliance and the news media industry in general?
I always cared about news media; I am fascinated by it. My background is in marketing – I worked in advertising, consulting and PR, and I knew I wanted to work in publishing. I wanted to bring the skills that I have in data and analytics, and the business side, to help publishers. I got the best opportunity to do it here with the Alliance and basically work for thousands of news publishers instead of just one.
What are you working on now to help the Alliance membership?
We have a couple of big initiatives going on. One is a project evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of advertising in newspaper media by partnering with a research company called Magid. We are really excited to provide this data to our members very soon to use when they go into advertising negotiations. We recently rolled out a web-based Advertising Intelligence Center, which is an opportunity for members to share their case studies so members can learn from other members and adopt successful advertising strategies. I’ve also been working on some research projects, including a survey that we did to understand what’s going on in each market related to subscriptions—we started in one market and are planning to expand nationally.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge the news media is facing today?
I think one of the biggest challenges we’re facing is that it feels like everything in the media industry is changing at the same time, and it’s hard to know how certain changes are going to impact individual companies, or individual groups within companies. We all know that the act of publishing and delivering news hasn’t changed very much, with the exception of how we consume that information. We know that there’s still value in putting information in front of people, but understanding changes in how the public prefers to consume news and then figuring out how to support it financially is what makes it hard to know what’s going to be good for the news organization. As an industry, we feel like everything has changed, but the advertising industry has shifted dramatically too, and sometimes it’s important to recognize that other people have gone through a lot as well. We, as an industry, need to stay on top of others, and not just what’s happening internally, if we want to keep thinking about the future.
What is the most promising opportunity for publishers now in your opinion?
I think there’s a real opportunity for publishers to learn from each other, from what’s been successful, and then combine it with all the data that they’re gathering from their subscribers to say, ‘Here, look at what worked in another market’ or ‘Here is what I can take from what they’ve done and learn from it.’ The trick is that people have to be willing to share the information they’ve gathered with other publishers. It’s an opportunity, with a string attached.
What are you most excited about working on at the Alliance this upcoming year?
We’ve been thinking really hard about what we can do and how we can help the industry evolve, and I think a lot of the work that I started when I joined the Alliance’s team is starting to come to fruition. I am really excited to see how it’s going to help our members. We are already hearing from those who have used our tools and learned how they have benefitted from them. We’re finally getting an understanding of how to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.