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Rajan pursues bold new vision for CNN

Earlier this year Sunita Rajan, a 17-year veteran of the BBC in Asia, announced she was making the move to CNN, a network that for years the British broadcaster has fought tooth and nail against for ratings dominance – often coming out second best.

As vice-president and head of advertising sales for CNN International, she took charge of an extensive client portfolio and teams in five offices across Asia from Hong Kong to Singapore, Tokyo, Delhi and Mumbai.

While her move may have been viewed as a surprising one, speaking to Rajan, it is clear she has big plans to fast-track CNN’s next wave of digital growth and amplify the network’s push into content verticals, particularly for a younger, more affluent audience.

“I have an ambitious digital vision for CNN,” she tells me from her new office overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

Earlier this year we had a glimpse of what that strategy might look like with the launch of CNN Style, a standalone fashion and design vertical, tailored for mobile audiences and social sharing.

It is verticals such as this and even CNN Travel or CNN Money, which she says is helping to drive engagement across multiple platforms.

They are also helping to satisfy what she calls “passion points” or types of content which can offer deeper engagement beyond breaking news.

“There is a hunger and appetite for that type of content and we will do more of it.”

The difference with CNN Style, she says, is the content is curated by people from within the creative industry, giving it a clearer point of difference.

“Products with an edge – that’s what our audience expects,” she says.

“Everything is shaped and tailored for a global audience. We live in a connected world and our products are put together for a connected reader.”

Within this new world of mobile-first media, conversations with advertisers are also starting to shift to content and digital. But despite a trend towards sponsored or branded content, Rajan says there is still a market and a need for ad buys.

“Content is very much the start of the conversation, but the campaign around the content is what makes it different,” she says. “The power behind the content and what we can do with it is what brands are looking for.”

On a more personal level, she says she is genuinely excited by the challenges ahead.

“The opportunities for me personally are exciting for a variety of reasons, but to work for the number one news brand in the world is an honour.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to build further growth for the global news leader across its extensive portfolio of TV and digital products in a region as exciting and dynamic as Asia Pacific.”

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