The pendulum has swung too far for digital - Sorrell

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 11 September 2015

The pendulum has swung too far for digital and may be in the process of swinging back to traditional media, however while it may be coming back, the landscape will look different by the time it arrives, predicts chief executive of media powerhouse WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell.

Sorrell believes there has been too much emphasis put on new media players and the video they offer and that the viewability hurdles they have to meet are much lower than those faced by the traditional players.

“The pendulum has probably swung too far to some of those online media. Take Google and Facebook: Facebook in particular, the viewership on video on Facebook gets a lot of play and is very sexy and is at the other end of the spectrum to legacy print," he said.

“The standards that are applied to viewership are very low, the hurdles are very low. For example, about half of all video is watched without the sound, the scale that is used for viewership is three seconds and I would say that is ludicrous compared to traditional viewership on TV or newspaper readership that [those channels have to meet]."

Sorrell was one of the keynote speakers at The Newspaper Works' industry conference, Future Forum, and he continues to talk to new media players and to question their business definitions saying that they are not tech players but rather media owners in their own right.

“You wouldn’t give your media plan to a client, to a media owner, so why do you give it to Google - who monetises its inventory just like any other owner? Google is not a technology company, it’s a media owner and the same thing applies to Facebook, the same thing applies to Buzzfeed; these are media owners,” he added.

Sorrell explained that Twitter, Facebook, Google and Buzzfeed are at their core, disruption businesses ,so traditional players need to “change the engines on the aeroplane as they’re flying and they have to experiment”.

“It’s not going to be like it was, it’s not going to be as profitable, it’s not going to be done in the same way, it’s been disrupted,” Sorrell said.

“We need to fashion what we do to the new environment - people are still going to read newspapers and watch TV but they’re going to do it in a different way.”

He also weighed in when it comes to the future of journalism, saying it needs to break down barriers and not think about channels.

“[There should be] one editorial platform, the journalism from the platform permeates across everything and anything; the days of separation are gone,” Sorrell said.

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