Google’s Brand Safety Loss is a Win for News Media Looking to Strike Direct Deals

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Google is looking at losses worth $750 million (and climbing) ever since 250 brand-advertisers pulled their ad spend following a Times Inc. report, which revealed Google’s seemingly uncaring stance on brand safety.

The dust is only now beginning to settle (after Google’s vehement promises of tougher policies, third party measurement, and a string of DFP updates). Not much has changed for publishers, and despite Google’s recent show of fair-play, advertisers’ trust in GDN’s ability to provide safe content to advertise against might be a little harder to gain back.

Programmatic Fails to Ensure Brand Safety

The YouTube exodus itself could be real or just a show of concern; advertisers shouldn’t be crying foul after rooting for cheap inventory at scale (as programmatic promised) for years. It comes with a cost, and all the direct-response advertisers knew that going in. The possibility that their ads would end up against extremist content was part of the bargain.

Uncertainty is the by-product of a biddable environment.

— Paul Gubbins

But some of the biggest advertisers (like P&G) know the dangers of thinking short term. Getting traffic or leads is great, but brand advertisers need to protect the brand’s image and long-term health as well. The YouTube debacle, along with previous uproars over fake news (Breitbart ban) proves that programmatic may not be conducive to that goal.

The industry is over-indexing on brand safety right now.

— Anonymous (via Digiday)

This rapidly growing interest in brand-safety is good news for premium publishers, who invest in their content and audience, and their limited but quality inventory. News brands in the UK are making the most of this opportunity to take back, directly, some part of ad spend that usually ended up going to the Google-Facebook duopoly and other ad tech middlemen.

Following revelations of ad placements alongside inappropriate content on Google’s YouTube, and the advent of fake news on Facebook, publishers’ arguably more controlled, predictable content may prove a safe haven for brands.

— Tal Smoller, Media Analyst

But Google’s Loss is News Media’s Gain

Newsworks, the marketing body for UK’s national newspapers (with stakeholders like Guardian News & Media, Johnston Press, News UK, Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror Solutions and more), is making a case for safe advertising environment on news websites.

The research proves the efficacy of news publishers in delivering results:

  1. Online Purchasing: Digital news audience is 22% more likely to make online purchases. (Data: TGI ClickStream Mobile 2016 Q3)
  1. Trust: 45% respondents trusted the advertisers appearing on trusted original content sites. (Data: The Value of Trust – Association of Online Publishers/comScore)
  1. Ad viewability: Lumen Eyetracking study (2016) found that news sites get double the viewing time per page (than non-news sites), 60% higher viewable time for ads, 30% higher dwelling time for ads, and 2 ½ times greater likelihood of the ad being seen.
  1. Growth: “One of the simplest ways to improve the business effectiveness of online digital display is to include digital news brands: their quality environment drives profits, not just clicks.” (Data: Peter Field’s analysis in IPA Databank Study 2017)

Barring negative and/or political content (for instance, any news about POTUS), digital news wesbites could provide a safe and effective advertising environment for media buyers.

News Media Still Has Bigger Battles to Fight

With 26% of UK’s online population as its user base, Adblock remains a problem. eMarketer released a list of top 20 websites with heaviest annual revenue lost to adblock in UK, and some of the largest news titles made it to the list:

  • Daily Mail incurred $22 million in losses. Rest of upper tier media brands don’t appear until the bottom half of the top 20.
  • BBC (11th) with losses of nearly $2.2 million
  • The Telegraph (15th), The Independent (17th) and The Guardian (18) with losses of $2 million or less.

AdBack calculated the revenue losses by assuming average CPM of 42 cents based on AppNexus data, multiplied by the number of blocked items per page, the number of page views a site receives each month according to Alexa data, and the ad blocking user rate of the country based on PageFair data.

Dailymail seems to be sitting on their hands, without any anti-adblock message or audience appeal for whitelist, while sustaining huge losses in the process.

By contrast, The Guardian adds a short message beneath their articles to persuade users to whitelist the website. The Telegraph shows this to adblock-enabled audience:

Notice that The Telegraph doesn’t restrict access to content; it simply appeals to users to turn off ad block for their website.

The revenue losses for these news media sites could be attributed to scale of traffic, but millions of dollars just vanishing every year is no small deal. An original content publisher could have put those dollars into creating more and better original content. And given the post-truth era we live in, it’s imperative that authentic news not only survives but grows and expands its reach.

It’s not Publisher vs. Ad blockers

IAB likes to equate ad block with extortion, but we disagree.

The revenue lost to ad blocked impressions was the stick that finally pushed the publishers (and now advertisers) towards making ad experience better for end users on all devices. The fight is not against ad block vendors or ad block users. It’s against bad, intrusive, or mismatched advertising.

As the demand side learns to refrain from delivering annoying creatives (through initiatives like Coalition for Better Ads, Project Awesome, and more), it’s up to the publishers, as the first and trusted touchpoint, to create a user-friendly ad environment.