Chief Executive Editor of Times of Oman.
Scott Armstrong has recently also presented at the OwnLocal stage at WanIfra’s DCX Expo on why it’s time for the media to fight back against Google and Facebook. It covers much of the answers he has provided to State of Digital Publishing and decided to include this as well – enjoy!
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I started as a cub reporter on a small weekly newspaper aged 16 years old (the Newark Advertiser in the UK) and worked in the industry ever since. I guess I was an early adopter of digital as it grew more significant in the industry. Now I evangelize about it, but I also still love the print. It is possible to do both well.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Does anyone in the media get a typical day? Currently, it is very strategy focused looking closely at our tech stack and working with my commercial department to figure out which tools can drive us forward both in terms of audience and revenue. While normally days are ruled by emails and WhatsApp a wise man in the industry – Kristinn Tryggvi Thorleifsson from Iceland’s MBL group – introduced me to the concept of ‘Deep Work’ so now I try to carve out time where I am uninterrupted to focus on issues.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LIKE?
Our biggest piece of tech is our CMS, which is Newspress from Layout International, it’s a widget based CMS which is very flexible and allows us to change on the fly according to breaking news.
Outside of that, we are really focussing now on what ad tech (rather than ad networks) can help us shift the needle as a premium advertising destination.
We’re also looking at registration/paywalls and next-generation analytics, it’s fair to say our tech stack isn’t as deep as it should be, but we’ve come a long way with the basic tools available to any media business.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
Play with my two-year-old daughter, in the whole maelstrom that is the media industry it’s important to remember what really is important in life.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR WRITTEN PIECE?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. They knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Charles Dickens, a Tale of Two Cities, pretty much sums up where both the media industry and wider society, is. Funny that he nailed it more than 100 years ago.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
I believe the industry has suffered from a crisis of confidence, we must remember our own value and stop complaining that the ‘duopoly’ is killing the media and instead compete. We can do strong journalism and generate revenue, it isn’t easy but then what worthwhile is?
IS THERE A PRODUCT, SOLUTION, OR TOOL THAT YOU THINK IS A GOOD MATCH FOR YOUR DIGITAL PUBLISHING EFFORTS?
I think getting the right CMS is important for any business, for us Layout’s Newpress fit our circumstances. Facebook has of course been a big part of everyone’s toolbox but that is changing, I think we need to be prepared to price in reach and start paying them as organic reach has declined so much (I think that’s a good thing, I’d rather pay and know what reach I’m getting) and I still really like their Live broadcasts (though I don’t like the rev share ad breaks we should be able to sell our own). Obviously, there’s Google AMP and other social media.
Tools we are testing, we are late to the Chartbeat party but that shows promise, likewise, we are looking at Marfeel to optimise our mobile site, and looking at OwnLocal to reinvigorate our banners ads. We also like Fork media in Dubai who is an ad tech company which offers premium CPM rates, they make their money on top of what we would normally make if we sold our own (20 to 40 times Google Adsense). And MPP shows promise for us as a registration/paywall plus their contextual advertising solution is smart.
If you asked me what isn’t a good fit? Google Ads or any ad network that pays you a pittance, your work, and your audience is worth more.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Remember content really is king, social media is distribution, it’s important to be across all of it, but without strong, relevant, valuable content you won’t build a sustainable, monetisable audience.