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Think BR: We have 45 minutes to save newspapers

Would a 45 minute slot at Mindshare's Huddle event be long enough to save newspapers, asks Brendan Judge, head of strategy, The Sun at News International.

Brendan Judge, head of strategy, The Sun at News International

Brendan Judge, head of strategy, The Sun at News International

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We have 45 minutes to save newspapers - a rather dramatic title for NI's second appearance at Mindshare's brilliant annual Huddle event, but one that was designed to attract maximum interest and involvement, appeal to the inquisitive nature of media professionals (and their vanity?!), and allow us to address some of the important issues facing newspapers in 2012 (and onwards).

Upon arrival, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer scale and professionalism of the Huddle. It's a huge undertaking, with hundreds of delegates and media companies all putting the finishing touches to their presentations and equipment, and also deciding which Huddles to attend.

And the amount of people attending each Huddle is there for all to see, so it was quite gratifying to note that our Huddle was standing room only - these are obviously key issues for the media industry today.

We asked the room to vote Yes/No on three different topics, and then vote again at the end to see how much opinion had shifted (if at all).

In between votes, we had plenty of interesting and challenging debate, and not just from Mindshare staff - we also had The Telegraph, Bauer and MSN in the audience, and all participated.

We arranged the three discussion themes and had one representative from NI to host a particular topic:

Emma Tucker (editorial director, Times) discussed: "Blogs vs Experts - will citizen journalism replace professional journalists and editors?"

This was the only unanimous vote - the entire room placed a clear value on quality journalism and the value of having editorial processes to minimise as far as possible the inevitable mistakes, and/or incorrect fact-checking, that arises via news delivered by citizen journalists.

Dylan Wyn-Pugh (head of strategy, The Times and The Sunday Times) tackled: "Should consumers pay for content in the future?"

Many delegates felt that content should be provided free and the audience attracted by that content should be monetised, but one issue with this is you could end up creating content simply to appease advertisers rather than the readers.

And if the free content is entirely advertiser-funded, will it mean a reduction in the scale, scope and quality of that content, which has traditionally been part-funded by cover price & subscription? This section certainly caused a lot of debate.

For my topic I raised the issue: "Should a newspaper be consistent across all platforms?"

How can a news brand deliver a consistent style of content and Brand DNA across all platforms when usage and context varies so much by individual? Should we even try? Or do we simply make each platform an own isolated ecosystem? 

While the latter two topics did appear to polarise the room - which was to be expected - there were many areas in which there was an amazing amount of consensus, which felt like a positive that we could build on.

The allotted time went very quickly, and perhaps we were a little optimistic with a 45 time limit to address every issue raised, but it was fun, lively, and thought-provoking. At NI we value the industry’s opinion on the future of newspapers and it is through events such as these that we can learn and build from.

I would have liked to stay for the entire day and participate in more of the other Huddles, but what I did see was impressive and it was a great opportunity to also catch up with colleagues from attending companies such as ITV, Haymarket, LivingSocial, Twitter, Spotify, Channel 4 and of course Mindshare itself. 

I'd love to see more agencies do this type of event. It's hard work and takes a lot of time and planning (especially from Mindshare), but it offers a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wider media world, and most importantly, to learn something new, hear something interesting and see something amazing.

I can't wait until Huddle 2013.

Brendan Judge, head of strategy, The Sun at News International

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