Jessica Davies, Digiday: Interviewing the Interviewers

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Jessica Davies is Editor, Europe at Digiday. One of of the most influential journalists in the digital media industry, she was previously News Editor at The Drum and a reporter at New Media Age.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the digital industry in 2019?

It would be great to see a larger chunk of marketing spend revert back to quality premium publishers as a result of them providing enticing products that can compete more effectively, in terms of data and scale, with the major platforms currently sucking up most of the digital ad spend. My fear is that it won’t happen. 

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

I was heartened last year to see more businesses take a harder no-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. There is way to go, but that can only be a positive step. 

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

David Pemsel, CEO of Guardian News and Media. To reverse such a massive financial deficit within three years and remain outside a paywall is an amazing feat, and has required deep changes to the business model, which most people believed impossible from the start.

Personally, I think its paid memberships growth and the way it has tackled gaining more transparency in its digital ad supply chain made it one of the biggest publisher success stories of 2018. 

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

I’m very interested in what the technology solution Ozone can do. It’s a new form of publisher alliance, and it is being set up to be far more than the more typical pooled inventory joint ventures of previous years. It has required real investment from the publishers involved, and if successful, will give those publishers far more control over how their inventory is traded and at what price. 

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018? 

A stand out was KFC’s mea culpa ad after its chicken shortage. A great bit of marketing to win back public favour after making such a major error.   I also really liked the OOH Shelter campaign from Clear Channel Sweden than ran in Stockholm in December and directed homeless people to the nearest shelters. A good use of the outdoor medium for an important cause. 

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever? 

Now millennials has subsided as a prolific and irritating buzzword, I see press releases about Generation Z all the time. I get why it’s done, but it’s not how people in those age groups identify themselves, as the backlash to the army’s recent recruitment “snowflake millennial” campaign showed. Just use the age brackets, everyone knows what that means. 

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t? 

Carolyn McCall.  

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

If there is an interesting story behind what a person has to talk about then it’s a no brainer. I’m always interested in interviewing people who have introduced real change into their business, and which either makes a significant difference to revenue or products or resets a debate around areas that need to evolve, like measurement for instance.

I’m especially interested in speaking to people who are willing to stick their heads above the parapet and talk frankly about industry-wide issues that need to be changed, rather than pretend that bad practice doesn’t occur. What would put me off entirely, is if they are merely wishing to be interviewed in order to boost their own personal profile, without having anything that interesting to say, or a point of view or strategy that’s useful for our readers to know about. 

Read more in our Interviewing the Interviewers series here.

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