Fairfax Media, News Corp and Nine to explore shared user IDs

Fairfax Media, News Corp and Nine are to explore a co-operative which will see anonymised digital identities shared between the three company’s media platforms.

Announced at News Corp’s Future Media Lab yesterday afternoon, the initiative promises to give marketers access to targeted audiences through the publishers’ authenticated user ID’s.

The three companies have signed a memorandum to launch the venture

The media companies have signed a memorandum and will go into planning and consultation, with the intention of launching the co-operative in the first half of 2018.

At a press briefing, Nicole Sheffield, chief digital officer at News Corp, said while the three companies are “always going to remain competitors”, there was a need to come together.

“Between us we reach more than 15m Australians and the co-operative will bring that together and start to form what that looks like. As content creators, it is incumbent on us more than anyone else to get it right more than anyone else,” Sheffield said.

The Australian anonymous digital identity co-operative will aim to improve quality and effectiveness of audience targeting.

Should the process go forward, it will also allow for more accurate reach, frequency capping and ‘on boarding’ of data sets.

(L-R): Chris Janz, Nicole Sheffield and Michael Stephenson at yesterday’s press briefing

The new venture will not include an integration of the three company’s respective advertising and sales teams, but it will add to the “suite of product services” for clients.

Nine, Fairfax and News Corp said the end result could see other companies – non publishers – becoming a part of the co-operative. At this point, Stan and Foxtel will not be involved.

However, this isn’t the first time the publishers have attempted to come together.

In 2013, Nine’s digital platform Mi9, Yahoo7, Fairfax Media and News Corp began talks to create a premium advertising market in order to challenge the display network of Google.

The negotiations were different in that they discussed combining inventory, as opposed to identity.

However, the negotiations fell apart when Yahoo7 withdrew from the negotiations in July. News Corp’s global ad exchange was then announced in August, which caused the publisher to pull from the local joint effort in February 2014.

In July 2015, Nine and Fairfax launched a premium programmatic exchange for mobile ad inventory, known as the Australian Premium Exchange (APEX), two and a half years after the idea was first touted.

APEX still stands today, and attempts to give traders the ability to “access a large pool of premium inventory that is 100% brand safe programmatically.”

But Sheffield said the new collaboration was “unique”, in that it aimed at providing advertisers the opportunity to “move beyond cookies and target identities”. It just “made sense”, she said.

“As Australian content creators it’s incumbent on us more than ever to ensure our audiences, data, content and now identity are being properly harnessed for marketers by Australians,” Sheffield said.

Michael Stephenson, Nine’s chief sales officer, said the combination would offer a real alternative to “the global players” for agencies and advertisers.

“This co-operative will allow Fairfax, News and Nine to deliver addressable advertising to consumers with even greater scale using our combined identity in brand safe environments,” Stephenson said.

When asked whether the new venture could combat technology giants Google and Facebook, Sheffield added: “We are confident in our products, we are confident in our audiences.

“We have got to look at our own tech stack and how we are achieving and delivering those solutions for our clients and we believe that together understanding the identity and having that available for all of us is actually going to improve the outcomes, not just for ourselves but for our clients,” she said.

Sheffield said it was the “right time” to begin discussions, but Sheffield, Stephenson or Chris Janz, Fairfax Media’s managing director of Australian Metro Publishing, would confirm the level of investment involved at this point.

“It’s taken us a while, it’s a complicated thing and for all of us we have to look at our own business models, our own stakeholders, our own shareholders. There’s a whole heap of things to look at and we just wanted to make sure when we announced this we got all of those elements right.”

Stephenson said while all parties had been focused on addressability and authenticated ids, it had all come at different times.

“We’ve all realised the importance of the strategic benefit of having signed in users, or authenticated ids. But we’ve all been on that journey, or different stages of our own journeys.

Janz added: “The market has told us that it’s audience of scale and that kind of movement has  been built over the past six months in particular.”

“All of us a very keen to aggressively compete against all players in the market and this is another tool in the arsenal.”

Should the co-operative be enforced,  a minimum of one anonymised identification will be sufficient to retrieve data.

Janz said Fairfax was pleased to support an initiative which would “streamline the way marketers can leverage a depth of quality data from content publishers to maximise results from advertising.”

His comments come two days after Fairfax Media announced its partnership with Google for programmatic advertising.

At the time, Janz did not endeavour to discuss the correlation between Fairfax’s new Google partnership and the new co-operative.

In October this year, Janz told an audience at Mumbrella Publish Fairfax would move away from third party ad exchanges.


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