Australian media organisations come together on fund to support local publishers

Australian media organisations come together on fund to support local publishers

Australian ad tech firm Viztrade is leading the launch of a digital media fund, which it hopes will allow marketers to invest directly into local news businesses and publishers.

The aim of the fund will be to direct funding into independent businesses so they can improve and create new digital services, helping local publishing to better compete against major digital media players, such as conglomerate news organisations and digital platforms like Facebook and Google.

Viztrade, a digital ad platform that specialises in local media, will lead the fund but has brought in Standard Media Index, marketing management consultancy TrinityP3, DVM Law and Arthur St Digital to be part of the fund committee.

Simon Larcey, managing director of Viztrade spoke to The Drum about the initiative and said the challenges local publishers face with print titles shutting down due to coronavirus means new investment models are needed now more than ever.

“The idea is to try to get money committed so that we can then start distributing to these publishers, and hopefully, keep some of them ticking over them and develop them. Particularly in Australia, publishers are still very, very young when it comes to providing digital solutions, and sometimes reluctant because it could jeopardize the print revenues. Now what a pandemic like Covid-19 does, unfortunately, it's caused some of these publishers to shut their print titles, and they've only got their digital titles,” he said.

According to Larcey, the idea is to follow best practice examples from the financial industry, but apply it to the media and advertising model. The fund will work by the associated partners forming the committee to oversee the fund, while he explained, “then we will have an independent body that will order or regulate it to ensure that the things that things are being done correctly.”

He says that the digitisation of trading in the financial world did away with stockbroking firms but wealth management firms grew, and the same model can be applied to media.

“As everyone started trading online, the stockbroking firms are gone, there’s very little of them around. There are all these wealth management companies and funds to manage people's money and I thoughts, why don't we copy that model again? The growth of the agency trading desks was a financial kind of modelling, and so our local media fund follows the same route off of a financial fund. The investors will know exactly where their money's going, exactly what type of return that they're getting. We have the technology to do it and now we have the financial solution to do it. Hopefully, together, they work really well,” he added.

News publishers, particularly those with large print businesses, have struggled during coronavirus as advertising spend has dropped.

Other issues that have emerged include that many brands unknowingly had restrictions on advertising against coronavirus news due to brand safety settings, leaving media inventory unsold. The IAB in Australia has urged advertisers to amend their settings so that publishers continue to get revenue, while they invest in journalists covering the pandemic.

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