Publishers exchange in doubt as News Corp confirms exit

News CorpThe future of the so-called publisher’s exchange deal is in doubt after News Corp Australia today confirmed to Mumbrella it is pulling out of the joint venture with some of its closest rivals.

The exchange was set to be a joint venture between four of Australia’s largest publishers News, Fairfax, Mi9 and Yahoo!7, as they looked to take on the might of Google’s programatic buying offering and wrest precious ad dollars from the search giant.

News’ decision to pull out of the deal is thought to come from the changed market conditions since it was first mooted, which include the arrival of UK news outlet the Mail Online, which has struck a joint-venture with Mi9 and looks set to become one of the biggest news websites in the country. It is understood News’ reluctance to commit to the exchange had been a major hold-up in its arrival.

In recent days News has also lost its head of commercial development Jason Barnes and director of commercial and product development Les Wigan who is heading to Fox Sports. The pair were leading the key figures on the publishers exchange.  A spokesman for News Corp confirmed the departure and said no replacements had been named.

Yahoo!7 had previously pulled its support for the joint-exchange after launching its own offering last July, although the imminent arrival of incoming CEO Ed Harrison and new sales director Paul Sigaloff from Fairfax could potentially see that decision reversed.

Marc Barnett, Mi9’s commercial director said in a statement to Mumbrella: “We remain committed to launching a premium exchange. Unfortunately we are unable to control the strategy of our competitors, or prevent them from losing key people – but we are pushing ahead with our strategy to be the leading player in programmatic, and look forward to driving the market forward alongside any other premium publishers that join us.”

Meanwhile, Fairfax has issued a statement saying its own exchange is “open for business”.

Progress on the exchange has been slow since the departure of Kim Williams which saw News Corp launching a strategic review of operations, then News Corp’s announcement of a global programmatic ad exchange, stalling progress on the exchange as the publisher considered its position.

Google currently dominates the Australian online advertising market and, according to data from the company, sells 80 per cent of its exchange inventory via its the real-time bidding platform which is now more than two and a half years old.

Nine Entertainment’s digital division Mi9 launched the Microsoft Advertising Exchange 2 years ago and is understood to currently sell around a third of its online ads via the platform.

In 2011 News Corp set up a private exchange where agencies and some advertisers are able to buy unsold inventory programmatically. The exchange has reportedly been responsible for a 250 per cent increase in yield for the publisher in terms of online inventory.

Nic Christensen and Alex Hayes


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