BBC News CEO Jim Egan: ‘We’re in a battle for survival for quality journalism’

Digiday+ and BBC Global News hosted an exclusive event for Digiday+ members and their guests last night, featuring a live podcast recording with BBC Global News CEO, Jim Egan, hosted by Digiday+ managing director Jack Marshall. Interested in attending the next Digiday+ event? Become a member here now for your invite.

Below are excerpts of Egan’s thoughts on the state of news publishing, edited lightly for brevity.

On brand safety:
“I understand advertisers reluctance around where their content appears, but I regard blacklisting as absolutely the wrong response. We’re in a battle for survival for quality journalism. If you turn off the tap, don’t be surprised at what happens.”

On the state of digital news after years of chasing scale:
“We talk about reach and reputation at the BBC. We say that we’re in the market for both, but if we had to choose it would be reputation.” 

On working with platforms: 
“We were late to the party, fashionably late. But that meant we were never dependent on the platforms. We’re currently building out relationships with Apple News. We have a good relationship with Facebook and are finding new audiences on those platforms. Fortunately, we haven’t been caught out by those algorithm changes.

Working with tech platforms needs to be part of your strategy but if that is your strategy then it’s not a good place to be.” 

On the viability of an entirely ad-supported news business:
“Quite sustainable but not future proof. We’re currently entirely ad supported but we are thinking about reader revenue strategies. We’re thinking at this stage, but not doing. It’s not getting easier.

On challenges with platform monetization:
“Yes, there are definitely challenges. But because we’re growing fast and our market size is relatively small, that additional traffic is significantly incremental for us.”

On branded content: 
“One of our biggest investments has been in branded content through our in-house Storyworks studio. It’s a relative strength for the company, having editorial strength with newsroom value… Close to half of our advertising this year will have a content component”

On commerce:
“It’s very unlikely the BBC will ever run into commerce. We do events, but you need be able to ensure you can scale it.”

On podcasts and voice assistants
“We Struck a deal with a vendor earlier this year to monetize some of our inventory. We have some skills on Alexa and talking with Google about Google Home. The commercial model is not yet clear, but it is clear that it’s going to be an important one given consumer adoption rates.”

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