Enmity, amity and Pats: how peace has broken out in newsbrands

The newspaper business took a major leap forward this month with the launch of a commercial transaction system designed to enable cross-platform sell, says Rufus Olins, chief executive of Newsworks.

Rufus Olins: chief executive of Newsworks
Rufus Olins: chief executive of Newsworks

I hope by now you will have seen some of the coverage Pats has received. The Publisher Advertising Transaction System, to give it its full due, will streamline commercial transactions between publishers and agencies, and bring consistency and efficiency to a complex marketplace.

It will "clean up" the admin of booking workflow and "join up" publishers' print and digital products, making it easier to transact across their total, cross-platform audience.

This isn't the place to go too deeply into technical specifications and capabilities. That said, though, we also believe it's important that no-one overlooks the implications of this initiative. The response from agencies is a testament to that.

WPP’s Group M, having already been part of the initial steering committee, will continue to collaborate with Pats as development progresses; Publicis (VivaKi, Zenith and Starcom) and Omnicom (PHD and OMD) will also be consulted at key points in its development. Vitally, too, it has been endorsed by the IPA Media Futures Group, chaired by MEC's Tom George.

Pats is essentially a back-office revolution that will have a significant front-of-house impact on the way that our medium is able to showcase and sell its advertising proposition.

It will it make it easier to book across the cross-platform audience offered by newsbrands. Easier – and faster. You can do it all in one go and the system will underpin a framework of consistency and standards for bookings.

After all that boasting, an apology: we're sorry that it's taken us so long to get here.

We're aware that radio (with J-ET) and television (CARIA) have had transactional systems in place for many years. The truth is, that we've had a harder road to travel.

It's sometimes said that Newsworks represents the medium most riven by infighting, division and internecine warfare. Competitiveness is deeply engrained in the culture of companies that have been at the sharp end of producing news and commentary on a daily basis since their inception.

Other media sectors, whether by instinct or regulation, don't have quite the same intensity of daily editorial and commercial competition. As a result, they may have found it easier, relatively, to undertake collaborative commercial initiatives. That is changing.

Transforming skillsets and attitudes

A new type of commercial manager has emerged among Newsworks stakeholders  – DMG Media, ESI Media, Guardian Media Group, News UK, Telegraph Media Group and Trinity Mirror.

The senior echelons of newspaper management have in recent years been drawing from an increasingly diverse talent pool. And there has been a transformation in skillsets and attitudes.

Sales operations also now include senior executives, who know what it takes to make a case across a portfolio embracing print, TV, radio and online. Just as internet companies make no bones about poaching our sales talent, we're more than happy (as is increasingly the case) when people with a largely mobile and online background are keen to work for newsbrands.

It could hardly be otherwise. These days, commercial teams create, sell and manage a sophisticated range of inventory across print, online and mobile platforms, and, in taking a lead role in developing a whole new range of editorial partnerships and promotional activities for their clients, they're also helping to redefine the parameters of marketing communications.

Pats will not just make all of that easier to manage on a day-to-day basis, both on the buy and sell sides – it will help drive even more innovation, because publishers and agencies will have more time for strategic and creative discussion.

So, yes, it has taken us a while to get here. But don't underestimate the concerted effort, cultural as a well as technological, that this initiative represents.

Rufus Olins is chief executive of Newsworks

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