Dow Jones CEO Says Company Has Played Catch-Up On Custom Content, Isn't Worried About Ad Blocking

William Lewis Spoke at a UBS Media Conference on Wednesday

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Dow Jones CEO William Lewis
Dow Jones CEO William Lewis Credit: Courtesy NewsCorp

Dow Jones CEO William Lewis, at an industry conference Wednesday, said that his company was not "out of the gate" fast enough with a branded content offering.

"We were a bit slow to the party," he said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. "We're now making up for lost time."

"There is a bit of a revolution going on in advertising, led by this custom content offering," Mr. Lewis said.

Overall, Mr. Lewis, not surprisingly, painted an optimistic portrait of Dow Jones' performance in a fast-changing, highly competitive media landscape.

However, he pointed to video as one area where his company's publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and Marketwatch, could grow. Lewis said he's "slightly frustrated about video," and suggested that Dow Jones-produced magazines should all be producing video.

"Our advertising revenue is fine, but it could be a lot better," Mr. Lewis said, referring to video ads.

Advertising as a whole accounts for 40% of the company's core revenue, he said.

Referring the industry-wide hunger for web traffic, Mr. Lewis said that he's more focused on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

He also offered his thoughts on distributed publishing programs like Facebook's Instant Articles offering and Snapchat's Discover feature, which The Wall Street Journal recently signed up for.

"Our partnerships need to be mutually beneficial," he said. "In a nutshell, we need to be treated like a true partner, and not a forced client."

Mr. Lewis, like other media executives who have weighed the pros and cons of publishing natively on platforms controlled by tech giants like Facebook, talked about the importance of getting back user data that could then be utilized by publications.

Also, he said: "Partnerships must lead to a subscription offering."

As for ad-blocking, Mr. Lewis said that he's "slightly, probably more sanguine about it than most," but said that it's on his radar.

Referencing the rise of ad-blockers, he said: "I can't help thinking that this has been brought about by some of our competitors being greedy in the ads that they run creating a substandard experience" for consumers.

Mr. Lewis predicted that "less than 10%" of Dow Jones users have ad-blockers installed, and used the discussion as an opportunity to plug the intrinsic benefits of having a strong print product.

"It's pretty difficult to block a print ad," he said.

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