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News International CIO aims to be multimedia giant in the cloud

Edward Qualtrough | May 23, 2013
Chris Taylor discusses agility, mobility and why the cloud is key to transforming a modern business

Big Data
Despite News International controversial decision to put The Times paywall up in June 2010, the newspaper still serves adverts and Taylor hinted at the strategy which the company believes is more in tune with its readership than dropping tracking cookies.

"We've been able to mine our users for insight. We've been able to display highly personal adverts based on what our users have been reading, rather than just which other websites they've been on.

"We also to performed some split testing to find out which are the best methods for getting subscribers," Taylor said.

The Times trialled three separate subscription landing pages with either a picture of devices, the faces of the columnists, and a third with a clear price listing.

"We expected the faces of our columnists to drive the most subscribers, when in fact it was the picture of the devices, which is what we least expected. In the end, showing our readers where they could access our content from for their subscription turned out to be the best method.

"And this all came from our user experience officer, a role which falls in the technology department."

Indeed, Taylor said that he runs an IT team of 250 permanent staff and around 100 contractors at any one time, in addition to an infrastructure management outsource of around 45.

Agility and goals
Other subscription-based projects at News International have involved cloud computing.

Historically, Taylor said, the newspaper industry has always had an arms-length relationship with its readers and subscribers; that was always the role of the post office or local news agent.

"But now with the internet and 'news worth paying for' we're more at the forefront on this.

"We built a customer subscription management system entirely with Salesforce. It's been a two-year effort, taking a year to get up and running and we've been running improvements for a year.

"Again we needed to be agile, to be able to test and refine but also it needed to be business as usual while selling subscriptions directly.

"You might have to dodge a few arrows along the way, but you need be agile and to be able to learn throughout the process."

CIO responsibilities
As our time with Taylor drew to a close, he explained a couple of his strategic goals at News International, one which is shortly going to be implemented.

"We're creating a multi-platform news room, one that isn't just paper-centric. We have multiple content management systems, but print still comes first. We need something where you can produce content once and publish it to multiple channels.

"It's going to be opening with The Times soon, followed by The Sunday Times six months later and subsequently The Sun another six months after that, with the goal of having platform agnostic content.


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