The Globe and Mail’s Phillip Crawley on his goals for the AAM Canada Board Committee and why media quality is more important than ever.
Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail, joined the AAM board in 2006 and was recently elected chairman of the AAM Canada Board Committee. As he begins this new role, we sat down with him to talk about how The Globe and Mail builds and leverages trust with its readers and advertisers alike.
As the new chairman of the AAM Canada Board Committee, what are your goals?
I think for anyone on the AAM board, the goal is to make sure that AAM remains a relevant organization in a world where it’s increasingly about digital dollars rather than print dollars. My hope is that we can encourage more advertisers and agencies to look at AAM as a source of validation of the integrity of the business. This is all about proving authenticity in a world where anxiety is growing.
Can you give an example of how publishers can prove authenticity?
We do deals with major agencies that will spend $25 million with us over the next year, but they want a guarantee of viewability north of 80 percent. To be able to make that deal, you have to be absolutely clear about what’s happening on your site.
We use AAM Site Certifier. It shows that our ad blocking is at a certain level, and it is completely consistent with our own measurement. But if we just said that, it would not have credibility. If AAM puts its name to it, I can say we have confidence that we can deliver based on AAM data. We can look an agency in the eye and tell them we know what we’re talking about and can deliver on our commitments.
Our business is about credibility—credibility of content, credibility in dealing with our readers, credibility in dealing with our advertisers. We have to show them what we’re saying stands up to analysis, whether that’s a libel case or a challenge from an advertiser. I would like the industry to verify their web analytics and say it’s part of what we get from AAM. We get proof.
You mentioned credibility of content. How does credible content fit with advertising?
We’ve probably never had a time when there’s been a more intense focus on truth in the media. The Globe and Mail has just launched a “journalism matters” campaign that is about the quality of our reporting and our determination to do investigative work. We believe we have to do this kind of work and be accountable to our readers. We have to be able to say the same to our advertisers. We’re delivering an audience that we can authenticate.
We have this moment in 2017 where integrity, honesty and credibility are being challenged. Who do we believe? In a broad philosophical context of what matters, AAM has a chance to say to advertisers, “we can validate for you, and you can be more confident about the story you tell your customers.”
What role does audited circulation play in The Globe and Mail’s strategy?
For us, it’s not as much about the size of the audience as the quality of the audience that we can guarantee. If we can guarantee an advertiser’s insert will be in the hands of the 10,000 most affluent people in downtown Toronto based on what we know about our audience, subscriber information and user behavior, it gets the advertiser better results. Marrying all of these different strands of data into one place helps our insert business. Circulation still matters as a guarantee that we’re targeting the right audience in the same way it should for digital.
We’ve talked a lot about proving authenticity and quality. How does the transition for Canadian newspapers to reporting quarterly fit into that story?
It’s an opportunity for us to communicate to the advertising market that we’re giving them what they’ve asked for. Agencies and advertisers have voiced that they need to work with data that is more current since the industry is moving so quickly.
Quarterly release of circulation data is a good step along that road. We’ve just done that for the first time. We need to make sure the agencies and advertisers know that we’re refreshing the data every three months because it continues to change. Our subscription levels are going up. We’re reducing bulk. We’re focusing heavily on subscriptions driving growth in both digital and print.
How would you define a quality publisher?
When media companies invest in newsrooms, journalists and technology to deliver content that’s in high demand and they can justify charging for it to an audience they can authenticate, that’s what I consider to be a sign of a quality publisher.