Gorkana meets… Dennis Publishing’s head of digital

Paul Hood, head of digital for Dennis Publishing, tells Gorkana’s Ben Spencer that 70% of tech titles on the newsstands are published by Dennis, talks about the publisher’s content partnership with The Mirror and reveals that he’s looking for PRs who can come up with “BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) ideas”.

Paul Hood

Paul Hood

Tell us about Dennis Publishing’s technology titles.

We’ve been publishing technology titles for more than 30 years – which is long before technology became a topic of mainstream interest. As a result, our media brands and journalists are very well known and respected as being authoritative, credible and trustworthy. This gives us a strong point of difference in a market that has become increasingly crowded with new entrants jumping on the tech bandwagon.

Around 70% of newsstand sales of technology titles in the UK are magazines that are Dennis Publishing brands*, meaning that trust levels among our audiences are very high. We’ve also developed some fresh, new digital-only brands in the past few years, including Expert Reviews, Cloud Pro and Know Your Mobile, and just last year we launched Alphr.com.

What makes a great story or piece of content for your titles?

We aim to cover tech stories and review products that are relevant, interesting and inspiring or engaging. Today, some of the world’s most innovative new products and fascinating stories come from tech companies. Often, the best content we write isn’t actually about the tech at all, it’s about what it enables – how it can make people’s lives easier by saving them time, money or inconvenience. The best PRs understand this and find the right angles to create interesting narratives for the brands they represent.

We’ve seen that you’ve recently started syndicating product reviews from Expert Reviews and Alphr.com to Mirror.co.uk. What is the thinking behind this?

Stories from the world of tech are no longer just the preserve of tech geeks and hobbyists. Today, a much broader audience are interested to know more about the latest smartphones, wearables and tech gadgets.

The Daily Mirror, one of the best-known British news brands, has recognised this, and it’s taken a really smart approach to its online coverage of technology. It has a small, dedicated editorial team finding the tech stories that are particularly relevant to its audience (which is upwards of 75 million unique visitors each month according to ComScore), but when it comes to in-depth product reviews, they turn to our tech brands for this content.

We’ve forged a partnership that allows them to cherry-pick a certain number of our articles each week to bring their readers to access product reviews written by our team of experts. Essentially, Expert Reviews and Alphr.com have become contributing “authors” to The Mirror’s Technology section.

From our point of view, this partnership further cements these two brands as premium, authoritative sources for a wider audience who are interested in technology. It’s a pioneering inter-publisher content collaboration that is working well for us both.

How are the editorial teams set up for Dennis’ digital brands? 

We have four excellent editorial leads for our six brands. Maggie Holland is group editorial director for our B2B brands, which are IT Pro, Channel Pro and Cloud Pro. Ian Betteridge is the editorial lead for Alphr.com, David Court for Expert Reviews and Richard Goodwin for Know Your Mobile.

How do you find news stories?

There are a number of ways we look for interesting stories, from working with our audience development team, to keeping an eye on various sources. But we also recognise that brands and PRs are a fantastic source of interesting stories, so we’re actually very keen to engage more fully with PRs and brands who have exciting new products, great stories or interesting insights to share with us.

What are your ambitions for Dennis’ technology division?

We want our brands to continue to be the first destinations that people actively seek when they want information to help them make a tech-related purchasing decision. That could be IT Pro providing the information to help a CTO choose the right enterprise platform, or it might be Alphr.com explaining the practical applications of connected devices.

We want our media brands to be number one in the UK market in terms of consumer preference, attention and influence. We’re less concerned with being number one in terms of outright audience scale for our digital brands, because we’re not obsessed with trying to reach everyone. We want an audience who have money to spend on tech and are looking for the best advice they can find.

That’s a tough goal given the rapid pace of change in the technology sector, but I’m really confident that we have the right people and the right culture to maintain our competitive advantage.

When are PRs most useful?

PRs perform tremendously valuable functions for the brands they represent. I think at times that some of us on the publishing side have been guilty of failing to build and nurture relationships with PRs. At Dennis, we’re putting in a concerted effort to improve in this area. From November this year, we’re planning to host a monthly session where PRs can come and meet the editors of our technology brands and engage with them face to face. Our hope is that this will be hugely useful for PRs.

In terms of how PRs can best engage proactively with us, we get excited by those who come with BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) ideas. We deal with run-of-the-mill stuff every day… but when PRs come to us with a big vision for their client, and we can work with them to turn into a compelling story, that’s what makes us tick.

This campaign from Fitbit UK is a fantastic example of an excellent PR-led campaign. FleishmanHillard Fishburn came up with a really good idea, and worked with us to turn it into a great experience and a whole series of engaging stories. This collection of stories has turned out to be among the most popular and most shared articles on Coachmag.co.uk and Alphr.com this summer.

* Source: ABC 2014 – Total newsstand sales of technology titles (including PC Pro, PC Pilot, Wired, T3, Stuff etc) was 5.7m. More than 4m of these sales were of brands owned by Dennis. 

Paul Hood was talking to Gorkana’s Ben Spencer

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