MARKETING MIX: HOBBY HORSE; Survival means learning how to sift information

Reuters held a press briefing last week. For most organisations, this would be routine stuff. More so, you’d think, for a company that makes its living disseminating information. So it was surprising to hear from the nice lady from Firefly PR who organised the event that this was the first time the men from Reuters had met the press and they were...well, nervous.

Reuters held a press briefing last week. For most organisations, this

would be routine stuff. More so, you’d think, for a company that makes

its living disseminating information. So it was surprising to hear from

the nice lady from Firefly PR who organised the event that this was the

first time the men from Reuters had met the press and they were...well,

nervous.



Quite how someone like Mark Wood, a former correspondent in Vienna, East

Berlin and Moscow and now executive director of Reuters, could have

butterflies in the presence of a handful of hacks in a private dining

room is beyond me, but I have to admit that the Reuters team did remind

me of Mole from Wind in the Willows, emerging blinking into the sunlight

after decades in dark tunnels.



The reason for their emergence after years of serene isolation was

simple: Reuters is having a pop at marketing itself, and it’s a new

experience. For most of the century, the group has been increasing its

stranglehold on financial information for the City, to the extent that

it now accounts for 93% of turnover. The supply of news to the media is

relatively small beer by comparison.



Nevertheless, Reuters reckons it has something to shout about with

Business Briefing, an information service that runs on PCs, and it feels

the need to talk to the press as part of its effort to get the thing

into the hands of business folk everywhere. It faces stiff competition.



There’s the formidable Dan Wagner marketing machine at MAID, with its

Profound service. Very whizzy and available via your Net browser without

special software. Then there are briefing products on the big online

services, CompuServe and AOL.



But perhaps more important is the competition from Everything Else We

Have To Do With Our Time. A nice chap from the Independent asked the

question: ‘How on earth did sales and marketing people get by before

they had access to all this news?’



I can’t deny that it is very valuable indeed to download a full briefing

on the company you’re about to pitch to or the brand you want to buy -

it’s what we do at Marketing before we start writing a news story - but

I do fear for the sanity of brand managers and agency account execs as

they struggle to cope with an ever-expanding surge of information oozing

from every desktop orifice.



Twenty years ago news came through three TV channels, BBC radio and the

newspaper. Now it comes through dozens more TV news operations, over

the fax, through mobile phones and pagers, over the Net and even from

screens in the queue at the railway station. If we absorb it all, where

are we going to find time to do our jobs?



The trick to survival in marketing is going to be not getting hold of

more information, but getting better at knowing what to ignore. If there

is a future for magazines like Marketing, it is in making sense of the

torrent of information we receive every day and serving up what really

matters in a handy portion pack.



It’s good that Reuters has decided to come out of the closet and sell

its news to a wider audience, but the value of its service should be

measured as much by what it leaves out as what it puts in.



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