Irish media urged to unite to better compete with Google and Facebook for ads

Publishers’ talks with Google continue but are at ‘early stage’, NewsBrands event hears

Google and Facebook’s combined share of the Irish digital advertising market is estimated to be 84 per cent. Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

Google and Facebook’s combined share of the Irish digital advertising market is estimated to be 84 per cent. Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

 

Irish news publishers should unite to develop a common digital advertising platform to compete more effectively in an online market dominated by Google and Facebook, a conference held by representative group NewsBrands Ireland heard on Wednesday.

Publishers were urged to form a cross-industry alliance that would offer better scale and appeal to the media agencies that buy ads on behalf of clients.

David Fogarty, digital investment director at marketing group Core, said that while media outlets were making strides in securing revenues from subscriptions and donations, they were losing out in a digital advertising market where Google and Facebook are estimated to command a combined 84 per cent share.

“With the size of Google and Facebook, it is very difficult to compete with them on their own.”

The Ozone Project, a venture backed by UK media publishers, was cited as an example of successful collaboration.

“Publishers in general need to come together and deprioritise their own business and stop acting in competition,” said Mr Fogarty. Such an alliance would ideally go beyond the newspaper-owning groups that belong to NewsBrands Ireland.

“Who is to say the Journal couldn’t be a part of this, RTÉ and so on? This could become a very compelling offering to clients.”

Helen Beecher, head of digital at media agency OMD, said if publishers could leverage alliances, it would “likely be the next step to be able to compete” for digital ad revenues.

Agencies have built their own systems to aggregate page impressions across Irish premium publishers’ sites in order to cope with industry fragmentation and make it easier to buy ads.

“If we have to go to each individual publisher, it is just not viable at the minute,” Ms Beecher said.

The discussion arose in the context of online browsers withdrawing support for third-party cookies, which have in recent years facilitated what is known as “programmatic” – large-scale and automated – purchasing of ads.

Google talks

Meanwhile, discussions between Irish news publishers and Google about potential payment for content on Google News Showcase remain at an “early stage”, NewsBrands Ireland chairman Colm O’Reilly told the conference.

Google News Showcase is a new Google “news experience” and licensing arrangement that the tech company has yet to launch in the Republic.

“Really, at this early stage, the approach we are taking is that we are engaging with Google very much from a conversational perspective to understand how this might work,” said Mr O’Reilly, who is chief executive of the Business Post.

“This is about bargaining and it is about the ability to negotiate and strike a deal, and that is what is most important at the end of the day, that what we have is a fair deal that reflects the value that Irish publishers bring to the marketplace, and that works for everybody.”

Mr O’Reilly said if this could not be achieved through negotiation, NewsBrands would seek implementation of the EU copyright directive, “probably enhanced with some type of mechanism along the lines of what we have seen in Australia. ”

The Australian government recently introduced legislation making it mandatory for online platforms to negotiate payment deals with publishers .