Local Publishers Get a Dedicated Programmatic Ad Channel

The Local News Advertising Whitelist launches today

The pandemic has the industry thinking about assisting local news publishers. Source: Getty Images

Key insight:

In light of local publications suffering due to the effects of the coronavirus, two industry groups are combining forces to create an ad channel for regional media.

The Local Media Consortium (LMC) and the Brand Safety Institute, along with Scott Cunningham, consultant and founder of the IAB Tech Lab, have created the Local News Advertising Whitelist to connect national advertisers with local media properties.

“The Brand Safety Institute is committed to protecting brands and news readers from inappropriate ad placement, particularly during an ongoing national crisis,” said Mike Zaneis, co-founder of the Brand Safety Institute and CEO of the Trustworthy Accountability Group, in a statement. “But automatically blacklisting ad placements within reputable local media platforms isn’t the solution. The Local News Advertising Whitelist allows advertisers with timely messages an opportunity to reach a highly engaged and untapped audience while still providing safeguards.”

Beginning today, the network will be accessible by advertisers for free through a vetting process to connect them with LMC’s 90 local media organizations. Publishers will set their own prices through their typical programmatic partnerships.

Local properties and alt-weeklies have been particularly affected by the coronavirus, which has destroyed a pool of advertising they relied on from live events and eateries. As restaurants, stadiums and venues shuttered, so did local news organizations’ business models.

Properties like The Tampa Bay Times (which announced layoffs unrelated to the coronavirus earlier last month) said it would reduce its print edition to two days per week. And Euclid Media Group, which has alt-weeklies in five states, had to let go about 70% of its staff due to the effects coronavirus has had on business.

The year is forecasted to look, overall, rather grim. According to the most recent prediction from IPG Mediabrands-owned Magna Global, full-year ad sales are predicted to decrease by 2.8% across all media. Print advertising alone is expected to see a 25% loss in ad sales compared to last year, instead of a 17% loss that the firm had projected before the coronavirus. 

Media organizations are facing record traffic in light of the coronavirus, but struggle to monetize its journalism surrounding the topic, because of brands’ concerns over whether their message will be communicated safely when their ads are surrounding the content. And any remaining programmatic opportunities get choked off as advertisers block coronavirus-related terms against news articles.

“We believe brands should value this as essential to their media plan—it is not only brand safe, but is exactly the type of trusted content that aligns powerfully with their message and association,” said Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer at Gannett, a company that will participate.

Earlier this week, Gannett announced its own struggles, instituting a tiered payment scale where anyone making over $38,000-per-year will not get paid for one week each month through June. Executives at the company will also take a 25% pay cut to soften the fallout. Gannett’s local newspapers include the Arizona Republic, the Des Moines Register, and the Asbury Park Press.

Other participating publishers include Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps, McClatchy, Nexstar Media, Media News Group, A.H. Belo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Los Angeles Times, Grey Television, Tribune Publishing, Seattle Times and Lee Enterprises.

“The LMC’s Local News Advertising Whitelist is launching at a time when local media companies are working overtime to deliver impactful life-saving news to their audiences, stretching resources to the limits,” said Fran Wills, CEO, Local Media Consortium, in a statement. “Now, more than ever, local media organizations need the revenue generated by advertising from national brands and companies so they can focus on delivering vital reporting on a daily basis.”

@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.