The Ozone Project, the premium media audience network, has expanded beyond its four founding newsbrands to incorporate Stylist Group and select newsbrands of its owner DC Thomson.
Ozone launched in 2018 to better challenge the digital advertising dominance of Google and Facebook and now claims to reach 99% of the UK’s online population every month.
Helping it reach reportedly more than 44 million 18+ UK readers are partners News UK, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Reach, and now women's lifestyle brand Stylist Group is now representing its owner DC Thomson. Ozone said this adds an extra half a million adults to its weekly UK audience, according to TGI Clickstream
Now it is reaching more people in the UK than Facebook, Ozone's next step is to build up the audience visit frequency to its newsbrands and learn more about their habits.
Damon Reeve, chief executive of The Ozone Project, said: "We are happy with the first year of progress, in terms of momentum. Our weekly and monthly visits are much higher than we initially anticipated. We are seeing these visitors a lot."
But he admitted reach just "gets you a seat at the top table... you then have to be able to reach that audience in a meaningful way for an advertiser. You have to get the frequency and have people returning on a regular basis to build a story."
The group can look at its partners' audiences and understand how they traverse the news ecosystem. There are "surprising" audience crossovers, said Reeve.
"For example, a business reader of The Telegraph also likes to read sport in The Sun. People move about to different content. The behavioural insight there is telling us that people like different brands for certain things. Content is pervasive right now, the person is consuming different content from different channels."
This reader journey is not as obvious when newsbrand data was viewed in isolation. Ozone hopes to learn from reader behaviour to provide greater efficiency for brands opting to spend in its ecosystem.
Furthermore, there are ambitions to build out its audience intelligence capabilities and its contextual advertising, which could deliver greater value for its 70+ current ad partners which includes Camelot, Toyota, Jet2, Sky, Dunelm, Lidl, 20th Century Fox.
Ozone claims to have delivered quarter-on-quarter revenue growth upwards of 200% for its partners. Although The Guardian seized a profit this year, The Sun and most recently The Telegraph have visibly struggled, underlining the importance of the initiative.
Reeve said: "We've been investing heavily in contextual capabilities and trying to understand natural language processing techniques, getting the message working to create real value for advertisers. We are starting to see the fruits of that in testing."
David Hayter, head of digital at The Stylist Group, said the move ties in with its year-long digital transformation. “I’ve been closely watching what The Ozone Project has been creating. The Stylist Group has always been an advocate for transparency in the digital advertising eco-system and have found The Ozone Project to closely mirror the values that Stylist has always strived to work towards. I’m delighted to be able to bring a stable of quality titles into The Ozone Project alongside the four founding members.”
After Dmexco 2019, Reeve expressed to The Drum his belief that the inventory of media companies would increase in value, and that his group had managed to bring together "historical competitors to engage the world in a different way".
He concluded that there are move "audience hubs" like Ozone coming to market.
"Premium content in the premium publisher world will be better differentiated from the open market web. As we get better at demonstrating our value, we will see that distinction become clear."