Aussie publishers have a choice: Work together or die alone

Simon Larcey looks outside of Australia for clear examples of what could be achieved if struggling publishers looked outside their organisations - and to their competitors - for help.

There’s an ancient proverb that Australia’s established – and, let’s be honest, somewhat struggling – media players should remind themselves of in the face of a global onslaught from the goliath overseas players.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Where once the Aussie landscape was a series of relatively media-specific battles – Nine vs Seven, News vs Fairfax, logic vs Alan Jones – they all look like petty squabbles compared to the firestorm that’s now being waged as a result of the digital age.

The digital duopoly of Google and Facebook continue to grow their revenue share, while new entrants like Amazon and Netflix look to take further revenue from longstanding media companies.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the new oil upon which our media machines run, data, looks set to become a far harder commodity to successfully drill down into.

With concerns around privacy growing worldwide, the European Union has introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to put personal data back in the hands of the individual.

It is only a matter of time until the rest of the world follows suit, which will mean the death of third-party cookies and more complexity around targeting addressable audiences when not using a walled garden.

Take away personal data, and how can our local media expect to compete – let alone survive – against what has now become known as the big four?

The answer is to form a united front.

Australia has a well-established and highly respected media landscape, and it would be a disaster to see this diminish. But the lifeblood of any industry is revenue, and with the majority of digital media being bought programmatically, traditional publishers’ revenue is not growing.

Newspapers and magazines continue to struggle in today’s space. They are all competing for the last share of digital budgets and in doing so take anything they can get.

But here’s the kicker: Australia has great media with high-quality, brand-safe content. It’s desirable for brands and safer than any user generated content or mix-and-match display network.

If the key media players in Australia came together and formed a united front, they may be able to not just survive, but possibly even turn the tables.

It may sound fanciful that companies that have been at each other’s throats for decades would suddenly break bread, but that’s exactly what is happening in other countries around the world.

In the United Kingdom, News, The Guardian and The Telegraph launched The Ozone Project in July, which is a collaboration to try to help drive new revenue.

In Germany, they have gone one step further and established an alliance between leading publishers, ISPs, ecommerce companies, parcel couriers and agencies to form a unified NetID with a view to creating their own local, walled garden.

Closer to home, through the premium programmatic exchange KPex, New Zealand saw digital revenue across newspaper sites increase by 21% in 2017, according to SMI data.

Surely these are examples of what can be achieved if we all work together?

Is it time to put down the boxing gloves? Photo by Kayla Harris on Unsplash

A network of publishers working together and developing a unified data-capture solution would allow them to build user profiles and advertisers to target audiences across multiple sites, as opposed to one.

It is a much more efficient way to target audiences and deliver advertising as opposed to individually contacting every publisher and trying to work with multiple data sets.

Essentially, it would be a way to reach audiences and deliver ad budgets more effectively and more efficiently.

And it wouldn’t mean the end of competition by any means – revenue would be distributed accordingly. What’s more, if an advertiser wanted to use publisher X in that network, other publishers could lease their data to publisher X to increase the possible audience size.

If models from overseas are anything to go by, the overall outcome would be the proverbial pie growing for everyone, while minimising costs.

Publishers regularly talk about their challenges, but generally only ever look for solutions within their own organisations. Maybe a united front is the best way to tackle the big four and keep the agencies on side.

What we need to remember is media agencies work for the brands and the brands allocate the money. As such, brands expect safe media environments and real business outcomes and rely on us as an industry to do whatever is takes to get them the best results.

And if the best results for brands also mean new revenues for publishers, surely old rivalries can be set aside?

If the rest of the world can see change needs to be made to future-proof traditional media, it would be arrogant to think we can survive in Australia without doing something.

Simon Larcey is managing director of Viztrade.


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