The Fishbowl: Johanna Mayer-Jones, The Washington Post

The Fishbowl: Johanna Mayer-Jones, The Washington Post
The Fishbowl

The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople 10 revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions will be drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.

This week, it’s Johanna Mayer-Jones, global chief advertising officer at The Washington Post.

Johanna Mayer-Jones started her career as a researcher at the BBC and Mentorn, before moving to advertising sales at the Financial Times.

She spent more than eight years at The Wall Street Journal, first as a regional advertising manager in Hong Kong and more recently as vice-president for live journalism in New York.

Mayer-Jones joined The Atlantic in 2019 as senior vice-president — a role she occupied for more than three years — before moving to become head of global client and agency partnerships at The Washington Post.

She was promoted to global chief advertising officer last year.

Why are you passionate about media?

I studied broadcast journalism at Leeds University and became obsessed with storytelling and journalism. I also loved the teamwork and comradery that came with that course and building work as part of a team.

Over the first five years of my career, this developed into working in sales roles at the Financial Times and that’s when my passion for news really kicked in. It was amazing to work alongside incredible journalists and reporters, and it’s when my focus became dedicated to building business models and advertising teams that could support the evolving news ecosystem.

This industry has also introduced me to some of the most important friends in my life. I consider myself lucky to have been able to work alongside such smart, ambitious and passionate people.

What podcast do you regularly listen to and why?

The Washington Post has a daily podcast called The 7, which is a great way to start the day, and I totally binged our long-form series The Empty Graves of Comrade Bishop over the Christmas holidays. The Washington Post has done some stunning audio journalism.

I listen to Pivot regularly. Kara and Scott are two of the sharpest in media, business and culture. I also really enjoy SmartLess for the banter.

I’m also partial to the BBC Global News Platform. It’s slightly nostalgic from growing up in the UK but it’s still the best global news report.

What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared with last year?

There’s a real awareness shift in the role advertisers can play in supporting journalism and news organisations. For a long time, clients outsourced so much of their media strategy, buying and transacting to third parties and the impact of that can really be felt across the industry.

With the rise of misinformation and a critical year around the world with elections in 40-plus countries, the role of news in society and democracy is clear. We can’t do it alone and it’s encouraging to see clients and partners step into the conversation around how they can help support the news industry.

When you look at the whole sales landscape, who do you think are really good?

The big four are all doing really interesting work. I admire the leaders at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Financial Times. They’ve built diverse models, content sets and audiences. It’s a competitive marketplace, but we all support each other and learn from the way we’re tackling the pervasive media trends.

What’s the quality that people admire most about you?

Resilience, guts and passion. Working in the media for the last 20 years, you grow used to having to reimagine teams, make difficult decisions and really believe in what you’re doing. It’s not always been a smooth process, but it’s been fun, dynamic and challenging.

Peer question: What is the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self starting a career in this industry?

Spend time with people. Not just in the office, but with clients, partners, vendors.

Your network of smart, trusted friends and advisors is what makes this industry so special. The first friends I made are still part of my network today.

Question from Jessica McGrogan, general manager, business development (brand), The Trade Desk

Peer question: If you were to acquire or consolidate with another media company, which would it be?

There are some really interesting areas for us at the moment, strengthening our core around policy and business, and also expanding our culture and service journalism.

I think travel, sport and fashion are also areas we see our audiences gravitate towards.

Question from Dominic Williams, chief revenue officer, Mail Metro Media

Peer question: What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?

I get to meet with some of the smartest people in the world, working on cutting-edge and transformative technologies and ideas. I’m constantly inspired by my clients, their teams and getting to explore the future through their eyes.

Question from Samera Mohmoud, commercial agency director, outdoor, Global

Peer question: What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?

Too many to mention. I lean in to risk and opportunity, and that often means I’m pushing myself and not always in my comfort zone.

Question from Verica Djurdjevic, chief revenue officer, Channel 4

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

Traveling with my family. Exploring the world, discovering new places and meeting new people is my biggest passion in life. Doing that with my family would be the ultimate gift.

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