Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review into the future of the newspaper industry, which included a planned investigation into “the operation of the digital advertising supply chain including funding flows and its role in creating or reducing value for publishers.”
May fears fake news and poor quality journalism are threatening the very foundation of democracy – citizens, she stressed, must have access to trusted and credible news sources to “inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion”, before adding, “in recent years – especially in local journalism – we’ve seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms, and fears for the future sustainability of high quality journalism.”
WNIP has rounded up opinions from industry leading figures to explore why regional newspaper sales have been struggling, and debate the role the advertising and publishing industries can play to help guarantee a sustainable future.
Andy Evans, CMO, Sovrn
“It’s great to see the UK Government taking such an active role in supporting the publishing industry. The UK’s digital publishers have been working hard through our industry associations to consistently rise to new challenges in the ecosystem. With the IAB Tech Lab’s development of ads.txt, the UK IAB Gold Standard, and the introduction of an Ad Quality Charter from the AOP, publishers are working with their digital advertising counterparts to ensure a fair ecosystem for all.
“I encourage the government to not only review large publishers but to also ensure support for quality, independent digital publishers. Independent and niche publications have an important role as digital content providers to deliver the public access to the widest range of content possible and their voice needs to be heard too.”
Matt Hammond, Chief Commercial Officer, PubGalaxy
“This is a necessary and long overdue call by the UK Government particularly in relation to investigating the murky digital supply chain. The major push for transparency that is currently dominating headlines is unfairly skewed towards the advertising end of the funnel, while publishers remain victims of the ‘tech tax’ as vendors siphon away huge percentages of advertisers’ spend.
“There’s no denying publishers rely on advertising, but the dependence of advertisers and ad tech vendors on publishers for significant proportions of their revenue is totally overlooked. The digital supply chain needs to be overhauled so it’s a fair system that doesn’t unethically discriminate against one of its fundamental components. The only chance we have to forge a sustainable and transparent advertising industry is via mutual support between all players in the ad tech ecosystem, and we hope this investigation will lay the first building blocks towards achieving this and cementing the industry’s future success.”
Adam Singolda, Founder and CEO, Taboola
“Local news is essential to consumers, it’s more significant than simply informing them of local affairs – it helps to foster a sense of belonging and community. In today’s era where “fake news” has become its own headline, local journalism has become the light – a credible, reliable, and trustworthy information source. I agree with Theresa May in describing high quality local journalism as a “force for good”.
“While we’re now seeing a decline in revenues – I firmly believe we’re at a turning point where local journalism can and will succeed. I also think it must succeed, we have no other choice – the question is how we get there. As I recently wrote about, there are a few things working strongly in favour of local news – one of them being millennials, who are more likely to put their roots down in one place, and with this permanency comes a greater interest in locality. And secondly, we’ll see a more focused nature on digital formats that cost less.
“Local news will be around for a long time – I’m convinced of it.”
Nick Welch, VP Sales and Business Development, UK and North EU, ADmantX
“The relationship between publishers and advertisers has been put under strain recently as conflicting priorities place pressure on editors to create content around the needs of brands, over those of consumers, in an effort to maintain revenues. And brand safety concerns are only perpetuating the problem.
“It is clear that something needs to change if the publishing industry is going to stay afloat and it is great to see the government taking action – particularly as the ad ecosystem still relies so heavily on having these platforms available to distribute their messaging.
“I am intrigued to hear what recommendations come out of the investigation. From my perspective, it is clear a unified definition of brand safety, that considers the perspective of all parties involved and highlights the need for advertisers to support the publishing industry’s success, is vital. We all need to work together if we are to protect the ecosystem and maintain the press sector the UK has traditionally been so proud of.”
It is clear that with newspapers seeing a continual decline in revenues, support from the UK government could be a crucial step towards a more sustainable future; one which experts argue must encompass greater collaboration between all sectors within the wider advertising industry. The prevalence of fake news, among other types of low quality journalism, means the importance of credible regional news has never been more apparent.