Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Championing independent publishing: David Murray, Digital Commercial Lead, The Official Charts Company

The Independent Publishers Alliance was set up to champion and empower independent publishers. To celebrate the work of the organisation, NDA is running a series of interviews with its members. Next up is David Murray, Digital Commercial Lead, The Official Charts Company.

Why did you join the Independent Publisher Alliance and what do you hope it can achieve? joined The Alliance as one of the founding members, mainly driven by the reality that small to mid-tier publishers like us just don’t have the same internal resource or the voice within the agency groups that larger publishing houses enjoy. For me, hearing Alex Newberry’s vision for The Alliance, this was a solution to both challenges.

The Alliance allows us to be part of a passionate community of likeminded businesses facing the exact pressure points and struggles we face as a mid-tier publisher on a daily basis. The Alliance gives us the perfect forum in which to ask for advice, keep on top of industry changes, and share our approach, which empowers us as a publisher to look forward and build robust and realistic commercial and editorial strategies.

I hope the Alliance can continue to build on its fast-growing community of quality publishers and, for me, eventually building a result driven commercial partnership between The Alliance and the Agency groups would be the icing on an already amazing cake.

What is the biggest challenge for your business in 2022?

The Official Singles Chart turns 70 years old this year, so ensuring that we evolve and continue to make our brand relevant and exciting to younger audiences will always be the biggest challenge of a heritage brand like ours.

We undertook a huge piece of audience research work recently with the help of Aurora to build out the brand, creative and digital blueprint for our new website launching in Q1 2023. Ensuring that we keep up with the content music fans want to consume, where they want to consume it, and importantly how we commercialise this will be key to our future success.

What is the biggest opportunity and how is your business adapting and evolving to take advantage?

I see two large opportunities for, these being Video and Partnerships, specifically with genre-expert broadcast/events partners.

As everyone knows, video is only growing from a consumption and revenue POV, so it’s key that we ensure we are speaking to our audience on the platforms they prefer with the content they want to see.

We have invested in a full time Social Media Producer who is driving large growth across TikTok and led by our Editor we are creating more video content than ever before across our Web and Social touchpoints. We currently monetise our video content with pre-roll both on Web and across Twitter/YouTube. Looking forward, the plan is to be in a position where we can more effectively monetise across the Meta platforms too.

The second biggest opportunity for us as an independent music publisher is partnering with broadcast radio/event companies in specific genres to create sponsorable packages that reach music fans across a wider number of touchpoints than possible across our O&O. We have recently partnered with the AMA UK to secure Alabama Tourist Board as a headline sponsor of our weekly Americana Album Chart.

This partnership will run for 12 months across Web, Social, Newsletter and culminate in The Americana Awards ceremony at Hackney Empire in January 2023 – here. These partnerships allow us to amplify and increase the reach we have, while also opening up the sponsorship conversations with non-endemic brands.

As an independent publisher, how are your relationships with advertisers and agencies changing? And with tech partners?

We are working with far fewer ad tech partners as they consolidate and as we become more focused on UX then we have ever been before, therefore we have to choose our partners with far more scrutiny from an integration, revenue and UX point of view. We have also invested in a contextual data partnership with Content Ignite as part of our data strategy for the death of the third-party cookie (whenever that actually happens) as, like most publishers, the bulk of our traffic is through Chrome.

Direct relationships with the record labels and artist management companies have been key to our commercial success this year and we hope that these will only continue to flourish and grow as we prove the value and success we can add to their marketing plans.

Now onto agencies, this has always been and continues to be a tough area for us, due to the fact we struggle to deliver the scale on our own that a lot of agencies need to work with a publisher directly, so being part of The Alliance and what the future could hold commercially is extremely important to us as a business.