​News Corp - On deadline in a digital world

​News Corp - On deadline in a digital world

As challenges impact newspaper businesses, News Corp outlines how the channel can help instigate change through digital technologies.

Mark Drasutis - Chief Product Officer for Digital, News Corp (Photo - Maria Stefina)

Mark Drasutis - Chief Product Officer for Digital, News Corp (Photo - Maria Stefina)

Such difference requires new levels of engagement from partners and vendors alike, considering the changing expectations of the end-user.

“Vendors and providers need to talk a different language because my questions are different,” he said.

“Why should my customer care? Why are you different to anyone else? Are you open? Can you be integrated in a seamless frictionless way with my current systems?”

To target a buyer of Drasutis’ calibre, technology providers must now completely rethink how to take IT products and services to market, changing sales techniques as well as offerings to ensure traction.

“Providers must talk in a way that is about the customer, and how we can piece together technologies and services to deliver the most amazing customer experience,” Drasutis advised.

In taking a deep breath and glancing at a whiteboard of post-it notes and ideas, Drasutis cited artificial intelligence (AI) as a key case in point.

“How many providers tell me that they can utilise AI and machine learning to deliver the right content, to the right customer, at the right time, on the right device?” he asked. “Literally, thousands of them.

“But I don’t need to work with thousands of them. I need to run experiments with a few smaller businesses that are agile and nimble enough to change and understand my business.”

Adding weight to the channel theory that specialised niche providers are now in vogue, Drasutis represents a buying demographic allured by tailored solutions and services.

In short, it’s a specific request for a specific type of expert provider.

“Today, if I strike a deal with a large traditional vendor, I’ve put all my eggs in one basket and then I’m taking a risk,” Drasutis explained. “It’s all about risk and it’s a huge risk to take.

“If I have a start-up in one corner that specialises in a technology and is more targeted and focused on what the outcome I’m looking for, compared to a big deal in the other corner that means I’m unable to switch because I’ve signed a contract that prohibits me from changing — the choice is obvious.”

In migrating “almost 100 per cent” to the cloud through Amazon Web Services, Drasutis said News Corp sought a no lock-in agreement, which subsequently lends itself to increased innovation in the future.

“We don’t just want one solution because one size never fits all,” he said. “That might have been the case in the past but I believe a niche or specialist provider is more likely to gain traction today.”

Currently, Drasutis is locked in conversations around extending New Corp’s video capabilities, as he navigates ways to monetise the platform in new ways.

In looking over the Pacific at Silicon Valley, Drasutis has a meticulous approach to choosing a technology provider.

“They are series A and series B kind of guys and the technology is super smart,” he explained. “If News Corp can shape their roadmap somewhat then we can get a better outcome as opposed to ‘this is what you get, take it or leave it’.

Mark Drasutis - Chief Product Officer for Digital, News Corp (Photo - Maria Stefina)
Mark Drasutis - Chief Product Officer for Digital, News Corp (Photo - Maria Stefina)

“A small vendor will have a better chance of having that conversation if they are pluggable and swappable because the world of being locked in for 5–10 years is over.”

For Drasutis, providers that can add unique layers of value will gain greater prominence across an Australian entertainment and media market that is forecast to grow to $43.4 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 4.2 per cent.

According to PwC findings, consumer spending on entertainment and media products is also forecast to grow 3.8 per cent to reach $27.1 billion by 2019, illustrating end-user appetite for innovation.

“Niche markets are big enough now in Australia,” Drasutis said. “I’m attracted to agility and the ability to help drive a roadmap and plug technologies together to create new capabilities.”

At the big end of town however, News Corp works with tech giants such as IBM, Google, Salesforce and AWS among others, as large vendors divide solutions and offerings to cater for niche end-user needs.

“IBM is a great example,” Drasutis added. “The IBM Bluemix Garage model allows me to play with a series of IBM technologies without having to buy the entire Watson engine. At this stage, I just want a bit of it.”

Future tech

With a specialist criteria set, Drasutis is focusing on how to fully embrace emerging technologies such as AI, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), in a way that embeds into applicable News Corp brands and products.

For many years, AR/VR were the stuff of science fiction. But now with powerful smartphones powering inexpensive VR headsets, the consumer market is primed for new paid and user generated content- driven experiences — in a market expected to top US$162 billion by 2020.

“But we know we can’t just turn up with a shiny new piece of technology and go and use it,” Drasutis cautioned.

“It’s got to be packaged in a way that shows value to the business and we need to be scalable by design. We can’t just run one-off VRs for example, we need to think about how we can make a repeatable process that delivers VR at scale.”

With Google and Facebook already on the way, the rise of new, less expensive hardware will put AR/ VR technology within the grasp of a growing number of companies and individuals, such as News Corp.

Specifically, for Drasutis, such technology could be used to enhance the user experience through REA Group, a global online real estate advertising company of which is majority owned by News Corp.

In housing, Australia’s largest property website with 4.4 million unique browsers each month, Drasutis said opportunities are rife for exploiting new technologies from a property viewing perspective.

“Today people go to a house or walk past it and see boards outside with an advert,” he said. “But what if we could take you on a magical journey and place you in the middle of the house? You can have a quick look around, do a 360-degree view before you’ve even physically visited the property. We can do that today.”

In a move that would no doubt render flattering, and fake, photo- shopped imagery redundant, Drasutis’ work with REA Group is just one of many initiatives bouncing around the digital corridors of power at News Corp headquarters in Sydney.

“Photography is also a great example,” he added. “Our photographers generate thousands of amazing images on a weekly basis so how can we enable that to be a VR experience for the future?

“Or take voice. Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant are becoming mainstream but what are we doing from a product perspective? And even print innovation is key. How do I lift from the paper via AR to enable a video on my phone to be triggered and play? That’s on the horizon also.”

With new technologies coming into play, Drasutis’ core priorities for 2017 are focused on doubling down on video, commercialisation and native, ensuring News Corp has the network capable of targeting new and current customer bases.

“How do we understand data to reach our customers?” he asked. “We also need to keep line of sight on where mobile is going, alongside what Apple and Google are doing. They are frenemies of ours and it’s our job to understand those platforms and our content to ensure our great journalism is valuable on those platforms.”

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