In conversation with Kieley Taylor

October 11, 2023

The World Media Group’s Chief Executive Belinda Barker chats to Kieley Taylor, Global Head of Partnerships at GroupM, about the organisation’s Funding News and Fighting Disinformation initiative, and why it’s particularly pertinent in the lead up to an election year.  Below is an extract of their conversation. You can watch the video below or listen to the full podcast here.

In conversation with Kieley Taylor – Funding News and Fighting Disinformation

The World Media Group’s Chief Executive Belinda Barker chats to Kieley Taylor, Global Head of Partnerships at GroupM, about the organisation’s Funding News and Fighting Disinformation initiative, and why it’s particularly pertinent in the lead up to an election year. Below is an extract of their conversation. You can watch the full video above or listen to the podcast here.

Firstly, what does your role as Global Head of Partnerships at GroupM entail?

GroupM places about one out of every three media dollars globally. We find appropriate context for advertising to appear. We look at audiences and we look at price point, so that brands can really deliver the outcomes that they want, whether it be salience, sales, etc.

My role is looking after those most scaled partners or those that have the most points of differentiation, so that we can really help our brands to stand out, whether it be through data and technology access, valuable pricing, or more and more, through a lens of what are value-aligned places for advertisers to appear.

It’s a global role – how do you work with the different parts of GroupM around the world?

As I don’t get more than 24 hours in my day, it’s much more about approaches for each different investment leader and their respective market. This informs a tiering so we can have consistent codification around partner assessment. It’s a matter of having a consistent frame of reference, rather than me being on the phone all hours of the day and night.

Tell us about your five key pillars and how responsible journalism fits in.

The Five Pillars of our Responsible Investment Framework help us to keep a lens, both short- and long-term, around the types of strategic relationships that we wish to broker.

Responsible Journalism; Brand Safety and Suitability; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Environmental Sustainability; and Data and AI Ethics are the five different pillars. There’s all kinds of intersectionality amongst publishers or platforms across many of these different themes, if not all. But it’s more a matter of helping brands who have specific ERG or CSR-types of value alignment to find best-fit partners.

We also tend to find that DEI is fundamental to responsible journalistic enterprise. Those journalists, those reporters, understand their audiences – the communities they serve – better than anyone.

As we get away from a cookie-based world sometime later next year, the value of those audiences and the authentic relationships that those journalists have built over years will really come to the fore. We’ll be able to see not only the integrity in the environment, but also that they are naturally supporting whatever look or affiliation that a community might have as its majority resident. A little bit different than the more opaque cookie worlds that we’re one foot in, one foot out of right now.

Why, as an agency, do you feel supporting responsible journalism is important?

The hard-nosed business answer is strong competition forces choice and helps to drive innovation and a plurality of opinions. It’s beholden upon us to make sure that different types of narratives are represented in a credible way.

In this precipice that we’re on of post-truth being [accepted as] a societal value, it’s critically important that we’re reaching out and helping directly to invest in those that are telling authentic and true narratives. There are political cycles going on both sides of the pond and I think they’re going to be watched with a lot of interest, if not trepidation.

Functioning democracies require for there to be the fourth estate. Given the privileged position that we have – to place as much media investment as we do – we really do find it to be imperative to continue to be a cornerstone in support of those that hold truth to power in democratic and functioning societies.

How does it work in reality? How do you audit the amount the agency spends on supporting newsrooms?

It’s certainly more straightforward with digital and programmatic. The post reporting is done on a 24-hour cycle, if not more frequently. So having a sense of how the dollars or pounds are stacking up is a little more straightforward.

Dollars might be going to a publication that supports a newsroom, but also supports lifestyle or sports news content – all of these more suitable places for brands. We’re looking with that much wider lens of a publisher when they do support a newsroom versus hard-nosed investigative journalism exclusively.

The other thing that we have to be really cognisant of, going back to the functioning of democracy, is how a population can have access to credible news information when there are paywalls and when they have to have access to broadband digital internet.

When we did a lot of work around public health for Covid 19, we saw that going to radio broadcasters was a huge and powerful medium to mass distribute public safety messages, as were local press publications. Making sure that credible information is not tiered within society is super important – to impress the point about the intersectionality of those different pillars of responsible investing.

Have some markets responded more positively to this than others?

The short answer is yes. We’ve done a partnership with Internews, who is using a consistent rubric to set a floor, so ensuring that the organisation is not under any sanctions, ensuring that there are by-lines for the actual people who are doing the reporting; that they have retraction policies if something is found to be incorrectly stated.

What we have found is that in some different marketplaces, there is a higher standard to journalistic enterprise, but we have found comfort that the floor is credible and consistent and allows us to have a breadth of local news sources for consideration in the markets that we’ve been able to partner with Internews to review.

How can publishers play a role in reframing responsible journalism?

I was recently at a panel discussion on the same topic, and there were two things that I implored publishers to think carefully about. One was for those that have programmatically accessed inventory, to look hard at all the different resellers or demand sources that you might have convened over the years. The fewer middle actors you have, the more favourably you will be looked upon, and the lesser your carbon footprint. Some hard decisions are being taken based upon rudimentary data and not looking at the broader context of the reputation of the journalistic enterprise.

The other bit is to make sure that you use this time now as applicable to local laws (GDPR and the like) for getting consented first party data. You will become a beacon of authentic and consented identity, which is going to be more and more valuable to advertisers as cookies go away.

Once we have a data match, then game on. We can deliver really personalised creative within that kind of context. Help us meet halfway with the business transformation. Through consortiums, coalitions, fractional support, there are ways with which we can get to a place that we can more easily integrate and operate in the cookieless world.

Finally, on a personal note, what news brands do you consume?

I tend to consume news brands like Bloomberg and Reuters to help me understand how my client’s business is operating and help me understand politics without such a sharp lead.

I also really enjoy the longer form content, like Wired and Fast Company. I like to really understand the direction and the future of technology because it pairs so closely with what I do for a living – when I’m not chasing a two-year-old child around that is!