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News Plus 2 Aug 2022 - 5 min read

News Corp goes full funnel, launches consumer product comparison site for lead generation by gaming 100 million monthly consumer finance searches; hedges for more frugal consumer spending

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor
News Corp Pippa Leary

News Corp's Pippa Leary: "What you're going to see News doing in the next couple of months...is get really focused on mid-to-lower funnels ."

News Corp has taken a few tips from its consumer wagering business and is galloping into credit cards, home loans and car and personal finance with a consumer product comparison site designed to generate highly qualified customer leads for brands and tap lower funnel, or performance marketing budgets that have driven much of the growth of tech-media platforms. It’s also tapping a more frugal consumer mood – 68 per cent of 2,500 recent News Corp survey respondents say they have already looked to save on bills, utility and fuel costs. 

What you need to know:

  • News Corp is making a major push into "demand generation" with a price comparison site, the first for home loans, credit cards and personal finance.
  • Money Compare leverages the news.com.au brand but not its audience - at least 85 per cent of the 2.5 million users it forecasts for Money Compare in the first 12 months will come from a crack team, blooded in a similar play for News Corp's consumer wagering business, trying to game search engine algorithms, namely Google, to land “high intent” prospects.
  • News aims to harness organic search strength in a bid to deliver major traffic – and double-digit conversion rates.
  • The publisher says it now has a "full funnel" suite of products from brand awareness at the top to purchase at the bottom.
  • It's also a hedge for an expected swing to performance marketing budgets from brands as the economy turns.
  • Although decades of evidence suggest brands shouldn’t pull back on marketing activity in a downturn to hold or grow marketshare, and the emerging science around the Ehrenberg-Bass-B2B Institute 95-5 rule, which says just 5 per cent of any company’s customers are in market to buy at a particular moment, News Corp is banking on the opposite: short-term sales will dominate advertising and marketing strategies as the consumer economy contracts.  

Full throttle to full funnel

News Corp wants to become a high-volume provider of lead generation – “lead gen” in industry parlance – first for consumer finance before expanding to other categories via a new product comparison site that leverages the news.com.au brand but not its audience. The publisher says 85 per cent of the 2.5 million users it forecasts for Money Compare in the first 12 months will come from a crack team, blooded in a similar play for its consumer wagering business, trying to game search engine algorithms, namely Google, to land “high intent” prospects searching for consumer finance products in credit cards (45.3 million monthly searches), home loans (37.2 million monthly searches) and personal and car loans (25.4 million monthly searches).  

The top remit for News Corp’s organic search specialists, its new online comparison site, News Compare, and the debut personal finance play, Compare Money, is to ensure Compare Money on news.com.au dominates listings for the 110 million searches made each month across those four key consumer finance categories. 

In the first year News Corp figures it can pull 2.5 million users to its News Compare site and clip the ticket on leads created from its reviews and tailored content. The model is an iteration of what News Corp has done in consumer wagering via News Perform but brings a new performance marketing product to traditional brand advertising that many of its news and lifestyle mastheads hang their hats on. It’s also a hedge on an expected swing to performance marketing over brand building as consumer confidence and spending crimps in the coming 12-24 months. 

"All our incoming audience signals are telling us that cost of living pressures are becoming the number one issue for Australian households," News Corp’s Managing Director of Client Product, Pippa Leary, told Mi3. "News is moving quickly to create content and services that will help these households save real money to help ease these pressures and financial services are the lowest hanging fruit." 

Although decades of evidence suggest brands shouldn’t pull back on marketing activity in a downturn to hold or grow marketshare, and the emerging science around the Ehrenberg-Bass-B2B Institute 95-5 rule, which says just 5 per cent of any company’s customers are in market to buy at a particular moment, News Corp is banking on the opposite: short-term sales will dominate advertising and marketing strategies as the consumer economy contracts.

Farming "high intent" audiences from search

Leary said the publisher was increasingly focused on “full funnel marketing”, with its recent data strategy designed on moving prospects from product and brand awareness and ensuring “mental availability” at the top of the sales funnel through to triggering intent in the middle and then purchase at the bottom.

What's become really critical is that we need to use that audience data to understand how to actively move our audience through the funnel,” said Leary. “Because we've all seen the movement of money from brand performance – everyone wants to put their money closer to the bottom of the funnel at purchase. There's very few players can help from the top of the funnel through to the bottom at a transaction. What you're going to see News doing in the next couple of months, and this is the first wave, is we are going to get really focused on mid to lower funnels and in the transition from notice to want to desire to buy.”

The curveball, however, is that News Corp is banking on Google to deliver “high intent” audiences to Money Compare on news.com.au via a sophisticated organic Google search strategy that leverages the links and rankings priority already established by news.com.au to lure those looking for better consumer finance products. Ironically, it’s the news.com.au brand that makes the difference in this organic search strategy although brand building is the opposite of what companies tend to do in a downturn. 

Although news.com.au has a large audience base, it often does not know the audiences in-market for a product or service. Google does via search so News Corp wants to farm those high intent audiences from search terms where people have signalled they are looking for alternatives in a specific category. Leary said the company did not yet know what the cross-over was in audiences coming from existing search via news.com.au.

Wagering and finance blend

“The skills, the capabilities, technology, they're completely different, it's completely different to what we have done,” said Leary. “We’ve learnt all this stuff through another wagering business we own called News Perform. They built up incredible capabilities and specialist knowledge around how you move people through the purchase funnel on wagering. It was a light bulb moment. It's the same process for every [consumer] decision. So what we've done here is we've said, okay, can we take what we learnt on that front and can we apply it to financial decision making? The answer is absolutely yes," she added.

"So as we move them through the purchase funnel, we got to have really intimate knowledge of search terms. Hence the way way we get people in here is through SEO. And it's through a really distinct way of dealing with SEO.  There's no pretty pictures, there's hardly any design elements. It's hard information – and that is what you do as you are moving high intent audiences through. You're not really looking to be entertained. You're not looking for general information. You are looking for specific information. Also, you're not finding us by serendipity. You're already searching for information."

Big conversion rates

News Corp’s Michael Pires, Head of Growth and Lead Generation, who worked on the wagering strategy at News Perform, said because the traffic delivered via News Compare and Money Compare were highly qualified leads based on intent, conversion rates were significantly higher than what a typical display ad campaign might deliver. He would not disclose the conversion figure but indicated News is targeting double digits compared to the industry average of perhaps 3 per cent at best.

The secret source is in ensuring the content is right in delivering comparable information and insights with key word links, followed up with a click-to-buy option in the comparison tables. Advertisers will pay News Corp on a cost-per-click or cost-per-acquisition performance model.

Pires said News Corp’s analysis is already showing searches on credit cards, which declined during Covid, are back on the rise. “We’ve started to see that creep up like home loans in the last couple of months,” he said. “We see a lot more traffic. It’s been going up since interest rate rises – there's a lot more searching going on in those categories.”

The current outlook suggests there may be more to come.

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