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Yesterday’s news? How advertisers can halt the publishing industry’s decline


By Maria Greaves, Assistant editor - branded content

May 21, 2024 | 5 min read

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Traditional news and publishing outlets are dying. And no news is bad news for healthy democracies as well as advertisers’ access to high value, informed audiences. But what’s behind the crisis and how can advertisers help stop the rot, to shore up future growth? Extra, extra, read all about it here…

Onyx by Outbrain on how advertisers can halt the publishing industry’s decline

What will it take to halt the publishing industry’s decline?

The decline of the news publishing industry is hardly a scoop. Since 2005, more than a quarter of US news outlets have disappeared. But premium news journalism helps foster democracy by creating an informed society. And its readers are a ‘highly desirable demographic’ of well informed, critical thinkers, finds research from Prohaska Consulting which is supported by the technology platform, Onyx by Outbrain.

“They’re highly engaged, educated and they have the purchasing power to help boost brands,” confirms Onyx by Outbrain’s vice-president, agency sales, Jackie Carroll. And yet, she adds: “30% of publisher advertising inventory is underfunded or undersold.”

Why? Audience’s consumption habits are shifting drastically. The way people are sharing information is changing. At the same time, news is seeing a drastic underfunding. “And that’s because brands are being very conservative about where they're showing up and the environments in which they're appearing,” Carroll explains.

Stop the press: brand safety concerns block growth

The industry believes in the safety and, indeed, the sanctity of news publishing. Three quarters (76%) agree that it’s safe for brands to advertise in legitimate news environments. And a further 70% agree that advertisers have an important role to play in de-monetizing disinformation and renewing funding for legitimate news. But a third (32%) of advertisers have been told to avoid marketing their brand in a news category at some point. And it’s down to fears over brand safety.

The online ad industry has developed tools and techniques to help safeguard brands. But those safeguarding tools can be so stringent that they preclude advertisers from leveraging premium, brand-safe news content.

As Carroll says, there’s a growing “fear from advertisers of appearing in the wrong place or seeming like they align with something that they don't want to be,” and this is an increasingly critical issue when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of quality news publishing.

So, what’s the answer?

Turning a new page

To capitalize on the opportunity that news audiences provide, brands must find new ways to address brand safety concerns while leveraging high value consumer moments across the publishing ecosystem. Here are three ways to do it:

  1. Use attention metrics

    Measuring advertising campaigns purely against cost, reach and efficiency metrics makes it easier for lesser-quality audiences to make their way into ad buys. Attention metrics provide a more accurate insight into how much a reader is actually absorbing an advertising message. And they help inform brand safety: this metric takes into account surrounding page factors like ad density and page placement, ultimately enhancing positive user experiences.

  2. Take a more sophisticated approach to using contextual signals Currently, many ad buying technologies treat all news publishers equally, shutting off access to entire news outlets and their potentially lucrative audiences with blockers based around blunt keywords. AI-powered contextual filtering tools instead assess the sentiment of a page, allowing advertisers to engage consumers when they’re in the ‘right’ mindset or moment while also providing more accurate brand safety assurance.
  3. Invest in the open internet, and quality editorial

    Previously, advertisers may have bypassed open web opportunities because of the difficulty in navigating such a high volume of fragmented content. But now, there are cross-funnel partners in the marketplace who help educate and support brands and agencies to invest in news advertising safely. New technologies and standards are enabling brands to make smarter, more granular decisions about the ways they tap into high-value audience moments on the world’s most reputable media outlets.

For more, hot off the press insights into the current news publishing crisis and how the advertising industry can help secure its future, visit Onyx by Outbrain.

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