Unlocking the Value of Journalism: Why Digital Advertisers Should Prioritize News Audiences

Since 2005, more than a quarter of US news outlets have disappeared, along with half of local journalist positions. This pattern of swiftly vanishing local news outlets has left at least one-fifth of the US – 70 million people – in a community without a newspaper, or in a community at risk of losing theirs. These situations, commonly referred to as “news deserts,” pose a significant threat to our democratic fabric, as the health of local news is bound up with the health of our democracy.

How Advertising Has Shifted with the Changes in Journalism

Since the 17th century advertising has been a source of revenue for the news industry, but the digital revolution, alongside the rise of closed social media networks, altered this dynamic. In the last decade alone, newspaper ad revenue has fallen by 63%. So what shifts in advertising have contributed to this change?

The Rebranding of News report by Prohaska Consulting aims to answer just that. We’re proud to have supported this study, which further enables a conversation around stakeholder roles in de-monetizing disinformation and renewing funding for legitimate news.

The Challenge: Embracing Premium News in a Brand-Safe World

The research shows that brands today find themselves caught in a paradox: they recognize the immense value of news audiences, characterized by affluence, education, and purchasing power, with 80% of respondents affirming their status as a highly desirable demographic. Despite this awareness, brand safety measures have become so stringent that they inadvertently limit access to premium, brand-safe news content. This has resulted in 30% of publisher inventory being underfunded or undersold due to brand safety blocking. 

It’s more difficult than ever for brands to navigate this paradox. The volume of content available to consumers has never been higher – and brands struggle to understand exactly the moments and mindset they’re reaching consumers in. To capitalize on the opportunity news audiences provide, it’s imperative for brands to find new ways to address brand safety concerns while accurately valuing consumer moments across the entirety of publisher properties. 

The Open Web’s Role in Brand Advertising Evolution

As brands increasingly seek better returns and greater control over their ad environment, the open web emerges as a promising landscape. This shift is not just a response to distancing from social and risky environments, but also a recognition of the untapped potential for real results within true journalistic spaces. While in the past, the open web may have been overlooked due to the difficulty in navigating such a high volume of fragmented content, the current landscape offers numerous cross-funnel partners. These partners provide compelling opportunities for brands and agencies to invest in news advertising, contributing to the development of a healthier advertising ecosystem.

The experiences that have made social platforms so engaging are also making their way into the open web, offering advertisers the trusted environment of editorial coupled with innovative formats from social platforms. With recognition from over 80% of respondents, it’s clear that aligning with responsible news journalism has a positive impact on advertiser’s brands. This intentional, yet often overlooked environment offers a powerful tool to drive consideration, unlocking the potential to elevate brand impact, quantified through attention metrics.

Attention: The Golden Metric for Audience Engagement

As marketers strive to better understand their audience impressions and grapple with the challenges of tracking data-driven performance, the emphasis on accountability and effectiveness has driven the popularity of attention metrics, which have proven to be closely correlated with incremental business impact. This rise of attention as the leading success metric urges the industry to craft distinctive digital experiences that go beyond mere impressions.

Quantifying the value of news audiences has historically been challenging due to the lack of a standardized metric capable of interpreting value and brand safety. Attention metrics not only address brand safety concerns, they also provide a more accurate evaluation of moments across editorial properties. This metric serves as a standard mechanism to understand consumer engagement, taking into account surrounding factors like ad density and page placement, ultimately enhancing positive user experiences.

Recognizing the potential of the open web and the availability of tools to track it, advertisers can now reimagine their support for news journalism, striving for a healthier ecosystem while still achieving business outcomes.

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