Regional publishers urge brands to reject "blind programmatic" ad-buying


A consortium of the UK’s leading local news publishers are calling on ad agencies and national brands to use local news media and reject the current trend for buying programmatic ads.


The group of 24 regional publishers, including Johnston Press, Newsquest and Archant, called on advertisers to reject a "blind programmatic ad-buying" trap that is leading brands being associated with extremist content online.

1XL, the publisher partnership representing local newsbrands to national advertisers, is also today publishing its own online advertising charter which confirms ads will not appear next to extremist content and fake news.

Last week Johnston Press reported a £300m pre-tax loss after the company’s ad revenues dropped 18% last year, with jobs and property sector ads hit hardest.

In an open letter published across the UK’s regional press, the CEOs of the UK’s longest established regional publishers highlighted how local news brands, many of which now reach at least 70 per cent of the people in their respective towns and cities through their online platforms, provide a trusted, safe and highly responsive ad environment.

The key points from the letter highlight the following:

• Local news brands publish content by thousands of trained and vastly skilled journalists and are regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the independent regulator holding publishers to account for their actions

• By advertising in these publications, advertisers can have the peace of mind that comes with a safe advertising placement as well as reaching one of the largest digital audiences in the UK

• Local news brands traditionally score well for trust. This was validated by a recent Comscore survey revealing local news site content is trusted almost three times more than social media content

• Advertising helps to fund this much needed high quality local journalism. Local news brands hope advertisers will continue to support them.

According to a report from 1XL, UK regional publishers are already seeing an uplift in ad spend amid brand safety fears.

UK regional publishers are seeing some of the money previously pumped programmatically in to video channels being spent against their articles as agencies and brands begin to think more carefully about what content their ads are sitting against.

Despite the recent furore around YouTube, Google and Facebook are still expected to extend their dominance of digital advertising this year to control 60% of the market.

Henry Faure Walker, CEO of Newsquest, said: “The crisis of confidence in the national digital advertising market continues, with advertisers increasingly exposed and worried about the dangers of blind programmatic ad buying which is placing household brands next to extremist content and fake news. Google and Facebook are keen to apologise but they don’t have credible answers.

“Our content is produced by highly skilled local journalists, it is regulated, it relies on human judgement and discretion as opposed to blind algorithms, and it reaches and engages millions of people in communities throughout the UK. As a result, our advertising environment is trusted, safe and highly responsive.

“What’s more, advertising in local news brands continues to fund much needed high quality journalism across the UK. We hope that ad agencies and national advertisers will better recognise the value we provide and will agree that local news brands are worth standing up for”.
Scott Gill, managing director of 1XL, added: “1XL’s unique proposition provides advertisers with the authority to reach local audiences at scale.

"We believe that publishers need to come together to put pressure on other less transparent trading platforms/SSPs to introduce a recognised and endorsed system of inventory quality. We believe 1XL’s online advertising charter is setting the standard for this.”

The open letter in full:

Dear Advertiser,

As Google, YouTube and Facebook continue to grapple with the concerns around ads appearing next to extremist content and fake news, we wanted to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the trusted, safe and highly responsive online advertising environment provided by the UK’s local news brands and represented by the 1XL partnership.

As a premium publisher co-operative, 1XL represents over 800 local news brands in the UK with a reach of over 22.7 million people, making us one of the country’s largest digital advertising propositions. This ranges from the Shetland Times in the north of Scotland to the Falmouth Packet in Cornwall, and includes large regional brands such as The Yorkshire Post and The (Glasgow) Herald. In many of the towns and cities that we publish in, we now reach over 70% of the adult population each month.

Our content is produced by thousands of trained and highly skilled local journalists who spend their days engaging with communities up and down the country through their coverage of the stories and events affecting their lives. Our content is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the independent regulator that holds us to account for our actions and upholds our high standards of journalism. The context in which this puts your advertising increases engagement, trust and therefore consumer response, giving you better value for money alongside the peace of mind of a safe advertising placement.

Maintaining the integrity of our content and our advertising environment is fundamental to us, and local news brands have always scored extremely well for trust. This was validated by a recent ComScore survey of UK Internet users - people said they trusted content on local news sites almost three times more than they did on social media.

Today we publish our online advertising charter (available at The purpose of this is to ensure our advertisers are given the chance to see the standards and processes we work to in order to guarantee that they get the transparency, trust and value that we believe they deserve.

We stand in agreement that local news brands online are now more than ever a great place for you to communicate and market your business and brands to the UK’s consumers.

What’s more your advertising helps us to continue to fund much needed, high quality local journalism. We hope you will stand together with us to support our local news brands, many of which have been publishing for over 150 years, so their unique content can continue to be loved and trusted for many generations to come.

Signed by

Alpha Media Group
Barnsley Chronicle
Baylis Media
Bullivant Media Limited
CMN Capital
CN Group
DC Thompson
DNG Media
Higgs Group
Iliffe Media
Independent News and Media PLC
Isle of Wight County Press
Johnston Press PLC
KM Group
Newbury Weekly News
Newsquest Media Group
NWN Media
Oldham Evening Chronicle
Scottish Provincial Press Ltd
Southwark News
The Shetland Times
Tindle Newspapers
Wyvex Media

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