On the surface, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should be giving local news publishers a boost. Ofcom statistics from the beginning of October reveal 88% of people are accessing news about the pandemic at least once a day, and traditional sources such as broadcasters, newspapers and radio remain the most-used sources of information among adult internet users. The situation has showcased the high-quality environment of local regional news media and emphasised its incredible social benefit.
But in reality, local publishers were already operating in a challenging environment before the arrival of COVID-19, and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Increasing reliance on intermediation by the large tech platforms has resulted in publishers not getting the fair share of the value generated by their unique and high-quality content. They are also having to explore different forms of monetisation as changes in the online ecosystem, such as cookie deprecation, make understanding audiences and generating ad revenues in the open web more complex. While subscriptions and registrations are growing and will certainly be an important element of monetisation moving forward, they are only ever going to account for a small percentage of a local publisher’s user base, so publishers need to find ways to generate revenue through non-authenticated traffic.
On top of these challenges, the pandemic has caused a dip in digital ad spend, which has had a knock-on effect on publisher income. The Association for Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte report digital publisher revenue was almost 15% lower during Q2 2020 than during the same period last year, with a rise in subscriptions unable to offset a decline in advertising revenue.
First-party data holds the key to tackling some of these challenges, and 1XL, the UK’s largest source of premium digital news media audience, formed by a partnership of 30 of the UK’s longest established and most respected local news titles, has utilized first-party data enrichment to succeed in this challenging time. Here’s how:
Targeting government messaging
This year, the government and the Cabinet Office have increased investment in local news media 15-fold, and local regional news websites all over the country are running government messaging relating to the pandemic alongside national news media. By focusing on data enrichment, 1XL has been able to help publishers Newsquest, JPI Media, Archant and lliffe to deliver targeted government messaging around COVID-19 to reach every user on the right device and at the right time. First-party data enrichment has also enabled these local publishers to retarget readers that engage with messaging and use specific audience categories, such as elderly or vulnerable users, to make sure they receive tailored messaging appropriate to their specific situation.
As Scott Gill, Managing Director at 1XL explains, “The pandemic is highlighting the crucial significance of local news media to the communities that 1XL publishers serve. At a time when the valuable but expensive, and increasingly scarce, public service of local news gathering is critical to informing the public, the integration of Lotame’s data enrichment tools is helping us with the delivery of vital government campaign messaging to the right audiences. It is also assisting 1XL in maximising revenue return to publishers across all areas of monetisation to help sustain publisher businesses.”
Increasing reach without cookies
With cookie depreciation limiting publishers’ view of readers across multiple browsers and domains, they need a way to help them find and understand their audiences across all first-party environments to drive scale and increase targetable impressions. JPIMedia is one of the largest local media groups in the UK, with over 150 titles such as The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and The Lancashire Evening Post. At the start of the year it addressed this need for a better audience view by implementing a cookie-less technology that collects and extracts data in real time on every browser and device that interacts with a client’s page.
The ability to find audiences across all first-party environments had an immediate impact for JPIMedia, doubling the number of users it can recognise in its data management platform and quadrupling targetable impressions in its ad server. The tool enables the publisher to strengthen direct advertising briefs, enhance personalisation tactics and target first-time visitors or one-and-dones across browsers, all without cookies. The implementation of this technology was fortuitously timed, enabling JPIMedia to activate the traffic surges that occurred at the start of the pandemic with first impression targeting.
There’s no doubt the stakes are high for publishers in the current climate, especially for regional publishers who are providing crucial news and information to communities who depend on these outlets for timely local updates. While there is no silver bullet to get local publishers through the pandemic, part of the remedy lies in exploring alternative methods to hold and nurture relationships with their readers. Only then, will regional publishers be assured a future to deliver the high-quality essential content their readers depend on.
EMEA MD, Lotame
Lotame is the world’s leading unstacked data solutions company, helping publishers, marketers and agencies find new customers, increase engagement, and grow revenue through audience data. As the pioneer DMP thirteen years ago, Lotame has continuously innovated to become the trusted data solutions company for global enterprises such as Bloomberg, IBM and Omnicom Group. Lotame is headquartered in New York City, with offices around the world, including London, Singapore, Mumbai and Sydney.