Growing revenue has been a challenge for publishers over the last couple of years. With walled gardens already capturing a disproportionate share of ad spend compared to the consumer attention they bring in, open web publishers are losing even more potential revenue as original content continues to be distributed among these platforms. In the past month, greater pressure has been put on news publishers as COVID-19 has accelerated revenue declines—which could be why local initiatives to support publishers have been moved up.
This includes the Australian government's recent decision to draw up legislation that will require Google and Facebook to pay for news content served on their platforms. This will give Australian news publishers a better shot at survival. The ‘code of conduct’ will certainly provide some new revenue opportunities, and in the age of fast-paced and easily accessible content—where clickbait and fake news have become all too common—it is great to see action taken to help prop up publishers who create high quality and trusted news content.
Importantly, this could spark a shift in how platforms define ‘good content’ which will lead to better journalism rising up over clickbait, and result in news publishers earning the revenue they deserve. In this way, publishers will be able to pull back on some other costs, such as content extension, and enable them to focus more on producing high quality content—something publishers are already known for and looked to as trusted sources of information by the public.
A recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by OpenX in January 2020 found that consumers ranked the open web (where your favorite online publishers live from The New York Times to your local news outlets) well above social media platforms when it comes to trusted, high-quality content. Three-quarters (74%) of people said they trust the articles on news sites or apps more than what they read (or see linked to) on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
Marketers can help publishers, and themselves in return
Brand marketers and media buyers can support a thriving open web while also extending the reach of their campaigns. Beyond relying solely on policy changes, brands can aid publishers in this plight of rightsizing revenue distribution by shifting some of their ad spend to publisher sites and apps on the open web and away from large platforms like Facebook, as is the default for many.
The aforementioned US research found that not only do more people plan to increase their open web usage over the next eight months than those who plan to decrease it, but they are also more open to being served ads on the open web than within walled gardens like Facebook and YouTube. Whether a person is looking for gift-giving ideas, general business info, or to make an immediate purchase, the open web was the destination of choice for the majority of consumers. Additionally, the open web easily outperformed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon when consumers were asked where they’re most likely to find advertisements relevant and impactful to them.
The codependence of the media and advertising industries is especially sticky and realised in times of economic downturns. It is in times of crisis that we must wake up to the reality of the mess that’s been years in the making. The good news is it isn’t too late for us all to come together and drive better business outcomes for the mutual benefit of everyone in this interdependent ecosystem—publishers, brands, media buyers and ad tech companies alike.
It is measures like the order by the Australian government, and support from brands and media buyers who continue to advertise on publishers’ sites and apps, that will help to maintain a sustainable ecosystem for publishers across the open web, and ultimately us all.
Mitchell Greenway is the director of publisher development, ANZ at OpenX