My media habits: Ogury’s Niall Hogan – ‘I’m infuriated by fake news and trash content on social media’

Ogury's managing director for South East Asia Niall Hogan talks to Mumbrella's Dean Carroll about shifting almost entirely to the mobile screen, why social media is best avoided and his reading habits

What are your must-read news sources you can’t live without on a daily basis, and why are those particular media titles so important to you?

“I have a subscription to The Times newspaper, which I access most days from my mobile phone. As an expat, I like to keep up with everything that is happening at home. I’m sure most Brits are fed up with politics by now, but I’ve been fascinated from afar by the twists and turns of Brexit and have tried to stay up to speed with what’s happening. 

“I top this up with Sophy Ridge’s Sunday podcast on Sky News every Monday morning. It’s normally about 45 minutes long, and a good summary of her politics show. It’s short enough that I can finish it during my city commute that day. 

“I use LinkedIn daily too, as it’s an easy way to keep up to speed with colleagues and industry news. In terms of media, I scan all the main Asia-Pacific titles at least once a week; including Mumbrella, The Drum, Marketing and Campaign Asia. 

“As a football fan, I follow The Athletic UK for all the latest football gossip and news.” 

In terms of news consumption – do you prefer, print, television, radio, websites, newsletters, social networks, blogs, apps or something else entirely?

“I used to love sitting down with a major newspaper, something like The Sunday Times, and spending a good three hours with it on a Sunday morning. Who has time for that anymore? These days, I tune into a bit of TV news – mainly Sky UK and some American news every now and then, and mostly news content on my phone. 

“In terms of breaking news, I will use my Mac and access news websites to find out what is happening. I don’t really have a preference; I’ll just scan two or three sites that are running the same story. 

“I do a lot of regional travelling and there are only so many films that you can watch on all those flights, so I have found that podcasts are a great addition to the travel kit. I download a few before each flight and will make my way through things like ‘That Peter Crouch Podcast’, ‘MadTech’ and one of BBC radio four’s ‘Intrigue’ series, something like ‘Tunnel 29’ to help pass the hours on a long flight. 

“I’m not a massive fan of social platforms and stopped using Facebook and Twitter many years ago. So I get zero content or news from those sources. I understand why people use them and enjoy them, but the amount of fake news and trash content on these platforms infuriates me, so I avoid them.”

Do you prefer long-form or short-form content?

“I enjoy both. However, like most people I in a rush these days, so the easiest way to grab my attention is with short form content. 

“I tend to see most breaking news on my mobile and will then quickly jump on my Mac to find out more, if it seems interesting. I still try and find time for long-form content to really deep dive into a subject, but it’s getting harder to find really good examples. 

“The Sunday Times does a good job of reviewing the headlines that it has run in its sister publication all week. This is a good opportunity to deep dive the subjects that grabbed your attention.” 

Can you name your favourite journalist and set out what makes them great?

Niall Ferguson

“He’s not strictly a journalist, but I like the pieces that Niall Ferguson writes for The Sunday Times. As well as having an amazing forename, Niall is the head of history at Harvard University. 

“History was always my favourite subject at school and I love the angles that this writer takes on current affairs. The articles he writes are always well thought out, well articulated, and they’re also always given a historical context, with references to things that have been observed in the past. 

“I like this approach, because as we deal with questions in the future, I think that there are so many lessons already taught to us throughout our collective past. 

“Verification and fraud detection is big business now, but only a few years ago there was very little known about it. I like the work that reporters like Mike Shields have done to expose some of the issues with digital advertising. 

Mike Shields

“Lots of people talk and write about digital fraud these days, but Mike and others wrote articles for the Wall Street Journal way back sometime in 2013 or 2014 that really lifted the lid on what was happening within the supply chain. 

“It was the first time I had seen anyone write so frankly on this subject in a mainstream publication. Today there are fraud experts, fraud advisors and even fraud historians, but really, they are all just following the good work done by people like Mike.”

What piece of journalism has changed the game in recent times, in your view?

Carole Cadwalladr

“It has to be the work that Carole Cadwalladr and her colleagues at the Observer and Guardian have done covering the story of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. ‘Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica’ – pure car crash TV in print.

“Governments around the world are busy redefining their citizens’ data privacy rights and introducing new regulation and legislation to control how big businesses collect user consent and use personal data. 

“I’m sure headlines like these have captured the interest of a broader public outside of our industry. Carole and the rest of the team were the first journalists to break the story in such depth.” 

Are there any titles you have paid subscriptions to?

“I have a daily subscription to The Times newspaper in the UK. As an organisation, we also have corporate subscriptions to all major marketing publications.” 

In terms of films and shows, is your preference for terrestrial television or streaming platforms like Netflix?

“I like both, but as most people I’m sure, I’ve seen my consumption of terrestrial TV slump in the last few years as more and more options became available. I still watch a bit of terrestrial TV, especially for sports – mainly football and cricket. We also watch Netflix and I’ll rent the odd film from Apple TV.” 

Are recommendation engines a good thing or do they cancel out the joy of serendipity in terms of discovering fresh content not aligned with your previous preferences?

“I think overall they are good, as there is so much content available today, it can sometimes be a bit hard to wade through it all and find what you want to consume. But I also think that if you want to get the most out of media, you have to spend a bit of time trying new things.”

What was the best film you saw of late – and can you describe why it made an impression on you?“Joker. What a film. This is the classic anti-hero narrative, and it was compelling to watch Joaquin Phoenix’s character’s path to destruction. I would be really surprised if he doesn’t win some kind of award for the very serious portrayal of everyone’s favorite comic book villain. 

“My only tip would be, go and see it at the cinema, it deserves a big screen experience.” 

And what shows do you consider to be event TV, those programmes you just have to watch and can’t contemplate missing?

“The only event TV for me would be sports related. Football, boxing, rugby, cricket….Take the 2019 Cricket World Cup for example. We were visiting family in the UK, and I spent the entire Sunday on my brother’s sofa, with his family glued to the TV.

“And the most amazing conclusion to a cricket game that I have ever seen – England winning the final in the last over of the match (with a deflected four runs thrown in for good measure). Live sport doesn’t get better than that.”

In terms of devices, how do you access content most often – on mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop or television?

“The average person spends approximately five hours a day on their mobile phone. My screen-time average is well over six hours. Sometimes over seven or eight hours if I’m flying. I consume nearly all my media content now via my mobile phone.’  

How damaging is piracy and illegal downloads when it comes to the media and entertainment space?

“I recently read an article by Digital TV Research that suggests that piracy will cost the film industry $52 billion by the year 2022. So it’s a big problem. The Motion Picture Association of America is so concerned about the problem that they have their own resource based in Asia, trying to educate the market about the issue and its potential consequences to future production and distribution. 

“However, streaming is so common in Asia, especially in places like China, Thailand, Indonesia, that I am not sure it will have any impact on consumer behaviour.” 

And moving on, what’s been your favourite book in recent times?

“After I left IAS, and before joining Ogury, I had six months off. It was time to reflect on the last few years and to recharge the battery. It also gave me the chance to read a few books – I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, and old favourite from school. 

“I finished ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel and started ‘Ballad of a Whiskey Robber’ by Julian Rubinstein. 

“But the book that I enjoyed the most was – ‘Scar Tissue’; which is the autobiography of Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers. He has had one extraordinary life, that makes some of my own excesses pale in comparison. 

“The book made me dig out my old Red Hot Chili Peppers’ albums, and the experience was topped off by seeing them live at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday night.” 

So Kindle or hard copy?

“I prefer hard copy. You can’t beat the feeling of picking up a book and making your way through a good novel. But be warned, don’t ever lend me a book. I’m terrible. 

“I turn all of the tips of the pages, to denote where I am in the book. By the time im finished with a book, it’s been dropped in the pool, it is covered in stains, the odd page might be missing, and it looks like its been in a fight with Tyson Fury. 

“When I look at its battered body on my bookshelf, I think that it is full of personality and its been well used, and it might even remind me of where I was when I was reading it (on a beach in Thailand). You just don’t get that feeling from a Kindle.” 

And now to music. How do you buy and consume music?

“I have a family subscription to Apple Music, and we all use that a lot around the house and when travelling. I also use SoundCloud to download the latest DJ sets from around the world.

“If you haven’t used it before, check out the ‘My Balearic’ mix by Greg Wilson. A winner for any kind of pool or BBQ action.” 

Which musical artists appeal to your tastes right now? 

“Radiohead. Oasis. The Strokes. Bowie. The same ones that did 15 years ago.”

Social networks: Hero or villain when it comes to giving you access to content?

“Both. Social networks have opened us to a world of content, that we would not have had   access to previously. 

“However, a lot of content on these platforms is very average at best. On the positive side, for example, when I book a holiday or weekend away now, I use social media video sites to scope out destinations and accommodation options. 

“There are lots of professional videos online, marketing a certain hotel or destination, but there are also loads of travel diaries or vlogs about the places that you want to visit. Nothing brings a holiday destination to life like video content. 

“This broader, personal content, was not available a few years ago, and it feels like a more objective review of the destination that I am considering.”

And are social networks like Facebook and Twitter actually media companies these days in your view, even though that is something they deny – perhaps to avoid further regulation?

“Even if social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not media companies, I think that they need to take far more responsibility for the content that is published via their platforms and for the actions of their users. 

“It’s too easy to just say ‘we are the pipes’, and turn a blind eye to the problems that are being caused by things like fake news and anti-social behaviour. As we have seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, these platforms can be very powerful communication tools, and we need to be mindful about how they are used. 

“I can only see more regulation in this area as central governments seek to counter their influence on populations.” 

In the digital world, algorithms rather than humans are the media gatekeepers. Do you miss the old days when the likes of journalists, critics and broadcasters played that qualitative role, or have we simply evolved to a better quantitative system?

“I think that all systems are inherently biased, but at least with the old system we understood that bias – for example, in the UK, The Sun was Conservative and the Mirror was Labour. You could consume a newspaper and weigh its opinion with what you knew about its bias. 

“That third party bias still exists in algorithms and the organisations that own the technology, but it feels much more opaque, and that could be problematic for generations to come.” 

Finally, what does the future hold for the media space in your view – will artificial intelligence and virtual personal assistants take over to the point where we just trust the machines to tell us what we want to consume, in terms of news and entertainment?

“Advances in AI and automation have played a part in altering the face of our industry as we know it. But the truly transformational shift is being driven by something altogether more fundamental: consumer trust.

“Today consumers are aware of how coveted their data is by tech companies and marketers. And now more than ever, they know the lengths that many of these organisations will go to obtain it. They know that their personal online habits and details are being observed and analysed to advertise to them without their knowledge, and without their permission. 

“For these reasons, consumers today expect choice and control over their data. It will be up to artificial intelligence and virtual personal assistants to adapt to consumers’ needs and stop treating them as mere sources of data, and instead respect their data choices as individuals.”


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