A new age of collaboration
As yet another publisher alliance launches in Germany, JPIMedia's Liam Reynolds looks at whether the appetite for collaboration is here to stay
Another digital advertising sales collaboration has been announced, with German publisher Media Impact joining forces with RTL Group , Gruner + Jahr, Axel Springer and Funke Mediengruppe, to form an advertising alliance that sells combined inventory across the European publishing groups.
Publishing alliances, particularly those formed around advertising, are nothing new, but they are becoming increasingly popular.
These alliances bring together premium publishers to enable advertisers to specify where they do and don’t want to appear - appealing to brands that have concerns about the open exchange and that want a safe and trusted alternative.
The challenge for all premium publishers in these collaborations is to prove that the benefits of being in an authentic environment outweigh the lower prices found across the open exchange, where any website is classed as a publisher.
In New Zealand, KPEX, a joint venture between publishers and broadcasters, has also established itself in the market.
Closer to home, some of these collaborations have been more successful than others. An early ambitious attempt was the Pangaea Alliance, a global collaboration featuring CNN and Guardian amongst others, offering premium inventory to advertisers. After a high profile launch, today their presence in the UK market is much more low key, focussing on the international market.
The Ozone Project, a collaboration across a number of national newsbrands, is no less ambitious, but trading in the UK only may be a good option to ensure success. While still in its infancy, has already wooed advertisers including Betfair and Jet2.
The UK regional collaboration 1XL, meanwhile, is embedded in the market reaching over 26m unique users a month and is celebrating its fifth year, boasting revenues of over £20M.
What digital alliances offer
Publishing alliances offer a targeted, fraud-free and brand safe environment, amid a digital ecosystem which has been undermined by fake news, extremist content and questions about transparency over how advertising is purchased.
These collaborations offer scale to advertisers, which for the first time offers media buyers a centralised and therefore efficient buying point across a range of titles.
Audience reach then means the need to white/black list sites - a fraught process at best - is made in theory redundant as the alliance can deliver even niche audiences at scale in a brand safe environment.
Alliances can also offer brands direct access to publishers’ data at scale, so they can marry it up with their own first party data. In the GDPR era, this is very valuable.
A further virtue is that collaborations offer advertisers and publishers alike greater control of the supply chain, amid continued questions about trading transparency.
1XL has pulled together 31 regional publishers including JPIMedia, Archant and Reach.
This alliance allows local publishers to achieve greater scale while granting national brands access to local markets. Member publishers have the benefits of programmatic trading at scale, pooling their inventory and first-party data together.
Regional newsbrands have had a difficult time in recent years, but 1XL demonstrates how publishers can fight back and create a new, enticing market for advertisers.
Size wise, we are the equivalent of the third largest newsbrand in the UK by monthly unique user reach, with 26.4m unique users per month and three billion ad impressions.
And 1XL is working: an array of advertisers continues to sign up and revenues at 1XL are increasing year on year, with over £15 million revenue in 2018.
Successes include VW, Barclays and LNER who have advertised frequently for more than five years. Jaguar, Land Rover, Haven and Toyota are also regular repeat advertisers.
Authenticity is at the heart of 1XL: readers engage with and trust regional newsbrands as there is a long heritage through print. Publisher support for local causes and events over many years has helped to deepen relationships.
Our advertising content is locally tailored and unique to the area and we also offer branded content by using journalists to create content tailored with geographical references and can schedule ads around coverage of sports, business and travel.
The future of alliances
The size of the UK digital advertising market is still growing, with the Barclays Adtech Ascendancy report predicting spend will hit £15 billion in 2019.
Premium publishers also continue to grow audience both in terms of scale and engagement.
The importance of authenticity for advertisers who have the brand at the heart of their business is also growing, and we know that audiences are increasingly engaging with newsbrands demonstrating these values.
Crucially, these alliances are a realistic alternative to the big digital tech platforms who still face questions about brand safety and their business models.
Not all alliances will succeed but those that do have to have a coherent offering to the market featuring a simple and efficient way of trading, which then delivers effectiveness.
This comes back to the challenge outlined earlier regards the premium publisher alliances needing to prove the benefits to advertisers of being in an authentic environment, and how these outweigh the lower cost, but risky open exchange.
Whilst work in progress, the strong campaign performances to date coupled with audiences growing appetite for trusted content certainly provides these alliances with every opportunity to succeed.
Liam Reynolds is Managing Director for National Sales at JPIMedia, publisher of almost 200 titles, including the 'i' and the Scotsman