A number of National and Regional publishers have joined forces and penned an open letter to advertisers asking for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic by removing blocklists from their digital channels. Certain words such as ‘coronavirus’ are high up on these lists, not just across publisher platforms but across the wider web.

This is not a new challenge for the news brand marketplace, as advertiser blocklists have been a challenge for a while now, however, the impact has intensified in recent weeks. As the pandemic accelerates, readers are increasingly turning to news brands for information and updates and Publishers are seeing unprecedented levels of traffic to their websites.

Albeit, this hasn’t translated into advertising revenue for them as numerous ads are prevented from appearing next to much of the content relating to the virus. It is predicted that over the next three months news brands could see a loss of £50m in ad revenue because of it.


Agency view:

We completely understand the frustrations of publishers, the increased numbers they are experiencing truly reflects the trust that their readers have in them and the crucial role they play at times like this. We wholeheartedly support them and our championing of initiatives such as The Ozone Project (a programmatic platform across key publishers) demonstrates this.

Ultimately, this challenge is about choice – specifically, the choice advertisers have when hand-picking individual impressions that are bought, either programmatically or through other means. Our priority is to ensure that our clients run against appropriate and positive content; Blocklists guarantee this happens.

There needs to be a middle ground here, whereby we can help publishers but fully protect our clients. We see this as two-fold:

Firstly, Publishers need to work closely with verification tools such as IAS/Double verify/MOAT/Adloox on the methodology around these lists and the criteria around them. This may well already be happening, but publishers need to talk to agencies about this to help put pressure on the verification partners to build new and more sophisticated technology to tackle this challenge.

Secondly, they need to work with agencies to prove that readers are open and receptive to advertising around this content and that it will not have a detrimental effect on these brands. It is important that publishers are also talking to programmatic and display buyers about viewability and time on site – areas where the impact of publisher’s relationships with readers, quality journalism and reader engagement excel. A clear opportunity for publishers to lead the way in building and trading on attention metrics and proving the impact that this has on a brands performance.

As we continue to move headfirst into a digital ecosystem where cookies no longer exist, it is important that publishers talk fluently about what information they are able to safely generate on readers and what they can hypothesise about individuals based on their content consumption. Publishers are making headway in this space by partnering with emerging tech specialists such as Permutive and Infosum. They must flex their technical understanding and embrace the opportunities presented whilst buyers wait for Google to make their next move.