'We’ve been selling the wrong thing': Newsworks CEO Tracy De Groose on why digital advertising is broken

“We’ve been selling the wrong thing” - Newsworks chief executive Tracey DeGroose on why digital advertising is broken

Quality journalism online is where digital advertisers need to move their spend, said Newsworks chief executive Tracy De Groose in her address to the Society of Editors.

Speaking about the slow change in digital revenue spend, De Groose claimed that the advertising industry had taken too long to see the need to change and called on editors to help her drive that.

“So, why have we have we been selling the wrong thing?” she asked.

“Because as an industry we’ve been selling our advertising space and not our journalism. It has lost us about one billion pounds of ad revenue over the last decade. One billion pounds less at a time when we really need it. But now we have a perfect window to change that. A perfect window to start getting the investment back into journalism,” explained De Groose, who added that the news industry was at “a critical crossroads” with readership reaching record levels across newspapers and online.

She added that the reach of readers was not spoken about enough, with the industry allowing the narrative of declining newspaper circulation to dominate.

“So, record numbers are reading the news. And readers are following us and our journalism as we transition online,” she continued before addressing demand for trusted sources of news and information, which was growing for the news industry as opposed to social media platforms, with a general election on the horizon in the UK.

“Journalism matters. Now more than ever,” she stated before adding that despite the positives, revenue was still not being spent in the direction of quality journalism.

“Why isn’t the money coming faster? The simple answer. Digital advertising is broken,” De Groose stated.

“It is dominated by an open marketplace in which content has been sold as one amorphous mass. There is little attention to the quality of the content. Or the attention of the audience.

“In fact, the word ‘content’ has been hijacked by the bullshitters, the propogandists, the fakers, and the like.

“This means quality journalism is being lumped together with this ‘content’ and sold to advertisers.”

De Groose claimed that advertisers now faced a “bonkers situation” where they had lost control of where their advertising was running and unsure if it was even being viewed by actual humans, leading to a fall in advertising trust.

“Thankfully the advertisers, the regulators and the politicians are beginning to wake up to all of this,” she added of how a change was beginning to appear. “But it is slow. And the stranglehold the tech platforms have on the advertising market is tight.

“However, the digital world is shifting on its axis and the next phase of digital advertising is looking significantly brighter for publishers.”

De Groose concluded by asking advertisers to help support quality journalism and spoke about her plans to speak to the United Nations about digital advertising about the challenges she had highlighted.

“I am going to make more noise in more places to help turn the tide in our direction,” she promised, asking publishers to support her message through coverage in order to build a movement that would back journalism and bring back the £1bn spend that had she claimed the industry was missing out on.

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