An Interview with NewsUK


An Interview with NewsUK

by Victoria Ponsford

News UK is home to The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun news brands. With 72% of adults in Britain in touch with News UK’s titles, digital products and brand extensions, the business has developed quite a bit of interesting data. So, why Tableau? And why InterWorks? You’re about to find out. We recently met with Keith Guthrie, Pulse Analytics Lead at News UK, to discuss the implementation of Tableau within one of Britain’s biggest newspaper companies.


Before we dive into Tableau was there a prior business problem within News UK to justify the search for a new tool?

When I joined the reporting team, Business Intelligence (BI) was relatively new to News UK, with the team only being set up in November 2013. As you can imagine prior to this, there wasn’t a great deal going on. In terms of the BI world, News UK had quite a fragmented environment. With the falling demand for printed products affecting the entire UK newspaper market and a focus on a paid-for digital content, we needed to support a more strategic digital strategy.

What were you hoping to get out of a BI strategy?

We have implemented a strategy to take the company on a journey to maximise our data assets. We want to fully understand our customers: who they are, what they do and what they are interested in, in order to help focus our efforts. In short, we needed to understand the best revenue streams and improve the uptake of print and digital subscriptions or hybrid product packs.

What systems were you using before you found Tableau?

Prior to Tableau, our regular reporting was a niche set of Excel reports. As with most big organisations, the tool sets used were vast, but the key delivery mechanism for both reporting and analytics was Excel. We are now moving into an environment where we use SAS for analytics and Tableau for reporting and data visualisation.

So (you knew we’d ask this), why Tableau?

There are many reasons why we picked Tableau. The team completed extensive research and knew the analytics market well. News UK already had a Tableau deployment, so it seemed a good choice, and all we needed was another server to keep things separate. We wanted self-sufficiency and speed of implementation – both of which Tableau really delivered on.

What impressed you about Tableau?

Well, that’s easy. As I’ve already mentioned, the first was its speed of implementation. If we’d had selected another tool, we potentially wouldn’t be where we are today. Tableau also has strong visualisation capabilities. We are able to bring data – some of which we’d never seen before – to life quickly. Tableau also benefits from an incredibly easy interface. The whole team has picked up how to use it with little or no fuss.

Do you have a fixed infrastructure that supports News UK BI?

Not yet, but we are working on it. We have a data warehouse with a single customer view, but there are multiple repositories for customer and subscription data (eg. Finance has one, marketing has one, etc.). Tableau does allow us to integrate this data into a single view, but we need to extract all the information before doing this – and moving data around is pretty expensive. We’re getting there though, one step at a time.

What areas of the business are using it?

At the moment, BI is one of the only areas of the business that creates dashboards using Tableau. We use it to build reports for all areas of the business, including Finance (for subscription management), Marketing (for who’s reading or viewing what) and for the Editorial team. I’m cautious about giving full control of Tableau to other areas of the business, but once we have implemented our new data warehouse we will investigate further self-serve options.

What’s your favourite thing about Tableau?

I’ve only been in the team for six months and was asked to deliver an effective BI solution. Without Tableau, it would’ve been incredibly difficult to get to where we currently are and in such a short time. So, my favourite thing is that Tableau helps us deliver quick wins. Before we used the tool, reporting proved very hard to do as we didn’t have a stable data asset and we had to do ad-hoc bits and pieces to keep our stakeholders happy. Tableau allows us access to different data sources, with little to no restrictions.

Let’s talk about InterWorks. How did we help?

We were a little different in our approach to training. Firstly, I dislike classroom training – it’s a little boring and rarely relevant to real-life scenarios. Also, we all had a relatively good understanding of the tools out there and how to use them, so adopted the ‘have a play, use the training videos and see what we can find’ approach. To be honest, it worked quite well. There were, however, a few things we couldn’t quite grasp and we asked Rob from InterWorks to troubleshoot all of our queries. He provided examples of best practice and even helped us deliver three-to-four projects in our two-day workshop. Four months later, we called upon you guys again as we needed help with geomapping and getting things pixel perfect.

What’s next for News UK and Tableau?

We’re trying to evolve the use of Tableau. We aspire to create 30 reports that everyone uses, rather than creating numerous separate reports for the different departments. At the moment, our focus is on migrating reports from Excel into Tableau, moving data sources and enhancing what we’ve got. In a year’s time, I aim for the entire company to be able to self-serve using Tableau. So, there concludes our interview – another happy customer of Tableau and InterWorks. If you think we could help your business, or you’re having difficulties unlocking the true value of your data, click here.

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