Why we need to level the internet playing field

In the current maelstrom of the Australian media industry, striking the balance between the needs of the consumer, the advertiser, and the publisher can feel impossible at times - but achieving that goal has never been more important, as James Bayes, vice president ANZ at The Trade Desk, explains.

When I think about my job, three main stakeholders come to mind – the consumer, the advertiser, and the publisher. I can only personally identify as one, the consumer, but after 20 years working across the buy and sell side of the industry I’d like to think I know advertisers and publishers pretty well.

In the current maelstrom of the Australian media industry, striking the balance between the needs of all three stakeholders can feel impossible at times but achieving that goal has never been more important.

Meta’s threatened withdrawal from Australian news content in recent months has ignited discussion around the delicate financial state of local journalism. We have just recently seen this firsthand with our neighbours in New Zealand, as the closure of Newshub (NZ) and job slashes at TVNZ threatened to leave a country of five million people without access to a non-government funded nightly news service as the local industry fights for survival.

This spurred debate around the merit of the News Media Bargaining Code and the role of Government in protecting an industry that some argue needs to move faster to reinvent itself to remain relevant and compete.

A question of competition

While these are all important discussions, for me there’s a key issue missing from the debate: How can we expect local news and content creators to compete, when global tech players are tilting the scales in their favour, and the result of the game is determined before the first bounce.

The current nature of the media and digital advertising ecosystem jeopardises the long-term vitality of the publishing industry, rendering competition for advertiser attention near impossible. I believe a free and open press is essential to a functioning democracy, and I hope Australia can avoid a situation similar to what we have seen in New Zealand. This can be achieved through a combination of elements, including industry collaboration (partnership that strengthen the open internet), innovation (nobody deserves a free kick and everyone must innovate), and targeted regulatory measures to uphold a level playing field.

Creating a more equitable internet

While the challenge for publishers in competing with global tech players is an obvious one, this also has a huge knock-on effect weighing on the needs of both advertisers and consumers. But, there is a choice to tilt the balance towards a more equitable internet.

Right now, you are making this choice as a consumer. You are reading this article which lives on the open internet – the digital channels that power many of our daily rituals like video and audio streaming, online gaming, podcasts, and online news consumption. At its core, the open internet is where consumers can engage in premium, professionally produced online content, whereas walled gardens embody low-quality user generated content that garners minimal engagement. It’s the antithesis to walled gardens – and it’s what we at The Trade Desk believe should represent the future of advertising. This approach emphasizes transparency and supports a healthy value exchange between consumers, publishers, and advertisers, crucial for sustaining free, ad-supported content.

Why equitable is good for advertising

Not only does the open internet meet the needs of consumers, advertisers, and publishers, but it presents a huge opportunity for each stakeholder. Our recent study, “Not All Online Time is Equal,” reveals that consumers recognize the significance of the open internet. They are spending two-thirds of their online time to these channels, compared to time spent on walled gardens. Amongst the 18 to 34, 37 percent have increased their use of the open internet, with another one-third planning to do so in the future.

And, it’s not just time that Australians are investing here, they’re actively immersed in the content. The data shows that 33 percent of Australians are engaged on the open internet through channels such as streaming their favourite shows, listening to their regular podcasts or binging their favourite blog, compared to just twenty-six percent who indicated the same on social media platforms.

The rapid rise in open internet content consumption is leading advertisers to opt for the same: embracing the open internet. Paired with independent measurement for transparent results and privacy-centric identity solutions for unified targeting, advertisers can unlock a higher return on investment. This is in stark contrast to anything walled gardens can offer.

Industry-led innovations for the open internet

Likewise, on the open internet, publishers who can bolster their capability to authenticate audiences and offer advertisers precise insights into their reach and demographics are better equipped to enhance their monetization potential. This, in turn, facilitates the creation of quality journalism.

To support publishers in this effort, new identity solutions such as Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) have gained traction. UID2 helps preserve the value exchange of free content for relevant advertising, providing advertisers with greater precision, publishers with revenue growth opportunities, and consumers with enhanced protection and control.

As much as we’d like to, no one can predict the future of the internet. Instead, we have to put our trust in the highly positive outcomes that the open internet has already demonstrated to us and build upon these further. The good news is that every single one of us can identify as at least one of the stakeholders I’ve discussed in this article. This means we all have the power to level the playing field of the internet for the better.



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.