Fairfax’s third-party native advertising platform ban has had no discernible impact on traffic

Fairfax’s decision to stop purchasing from third-party click providers has saved the publisher millions of dollars on its branded content, and hasn’t resulted in a sizeable drop in traffic or engagement as a result.

“We found out that buying massive clicks does not yield genuine audiences,” said Kate Cox, Fairfax’s commercial content director during a Mumbrella360 session on content marketing.

Fairfax’s Beth van Koesveld and Kate Cox (L-R)

Cox was referencing third party native advertising platforms such as Taboola and Outbrain, which many publishers use to increase traffic via external sites.

“It never made sense for us to buy random audiences,” said Cox. “When we looked at the audiences that we had been buying, their profile, their device behaviour and their habits were different – as in worse – than those of our core audiences.”

“What we’re discovering now that we’ve made this strategic decision is they’re more loyal, they’re more likely to act, they’re more likely to spend more time and they’re more likely to come back.”

“We thought this was a pretty brave move, we thought it would be a lot harder, but to be honest we haven’t seen a drop in traffic or engagement in branded content resulting from this shift in strategy.”

Cox explained how in order to keep both clients and readers happy, Fairfax’s content had to be created with its true audience in mind.

“We’re backing our own loyal, smart, interested, quality and above all, real audiences. We’re putting our money where our mouths are and we’re valuing the people, the actual humans, who engage with us and communicate with us everyday, rather than going out and purchasing eyeballs from who the hell knows where.”

Fairfax’s strategic insights manager Beth van Koesveld, who shared the stage with Cox agreed, adding: “When brands came to us and said that they want to keep talking to our audiences, they came to Fairfax because we stand for something and they know what kind of audiences we have.

“It didn’t make sense for us to then go out and buy a bunch of randos, to put it quite bluntly. That was quite a conscious decision that we made. If brands come to us and want to talk to our audience we want to make sure they’re talking to our audience.”

As part of the shift towards audience-focussed content, Cox’s team are now focussing on engagement as the key metric.

“The focus on the power of the audience is all about engagement,” the commercial content director said. “My team are encouraged to think about engagement rather than page views because I really believe that this is the most important metric of all. I know that the industry standard is pageviews and traffic, and we do take reach pretty seriously, but I really believe that in a few years we’ll be selling content on engagement rather than traffic.”

Fairfax’s move away from third party traffic is part of its attempt to win the trust of consumers who have become aware that their data is “not being used for them, but against them”, explained Koesveld.

Koesveld, who shared the stage with Cox, told the audience how in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and GDPR in Europe, “audiences are becoming aware that they’re being commoditised. With awareness and knowledge comes power. The audience’s power is growing.”


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