Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

In conversation with Alex Newberry, co-founder of the Independent Publishers Alliance

Following his appointment as an advisor to the Independent Publishers Alliance, ShowHeroes’ UK country Manager Steven Filler talks to its Co-Founder, Alex Newberry, about their mission to give UK publishers a stronger voice and their plans for the year ahead.

A few months ago I announced my support for the Independent Publishers Alliance as an advisor. From a personal perspective the success of the publishing industry has always been a big priority for me, having started my career at IPC Magazines and The Guardian, and spending years on the ad tech side of the business helping publishers to monetise their amazing editorial.

In my current role at ShowHeroes these partnerships with publishers continue to be a priority as we look to provide video content, technology and revenue support. Video is becoming increasingly important to audiences but also to advertisers looking to reach informed, highly engaged consumers in brand safe and contextually relevant environments.

I recently sat down with one of the Alliance’s founders, Alex Newberry, to hear about the story behind The Alliance and what we can expect in the year ahead.

Steve: So let’s take it from the start Alex, can you tell us how The Publishers Alliance started and why you’ve given so much of your personal time to this great initiative.

Alex: Both myself and my Co-Founder, Jon Westbrook, started our careers at independent publishers and more recently found ourselves working at large US ad tech businesses. The disconnect between those two ends of the same industry is something that really didn’t sit well with us and we felt it needed addressing.

We also felt that there were no specific events or content tailored to the independent publisher, addressing the specific issues they face. Many times I attended an IAB or AOP event and was truly inspired by those speaking, but there was no way to apply what I had learned in my own business. The Alliance addresses this in a big way, creating events that independent publishers take real value from as well as having an opportunity to network with like minded companies in a similar position.

Steve: What are the main problems or challenges you’re trying to solve or support publishers with?

Alex: The Alliance was set up to “Champion and Empower the Independent Publisher” and this is at the core of everything we do.

At the beginning of every year we host roundtable sessions for our members, where they can air the issues and problems they are facing. From this we build out the initiatives, content and events for that year. For 2022 we focussed on “Growing your Audience”, “The Future of Ad trading” and “Scaling your Business”.

Steve: What are the key initiatives you’ve delivered since you started the Publishers Alliance?

Alex: The Alliance was primarily focused on running events and workshops for a variety of subjects that our membership needed help with. Tailoring content specifically into actionable guidance that an indie publisher can implement in their businesses.

But as time went on, our membership began requesting that the Alliance fulfil more roles for them. So since we launched we have begun to represent the membership within the industry press and at industry events, giving the indie publisher a voice and opinion on current topics and decisions of the day. 

We represent the group with big tech and help tech giants tailor their approach and products so that the independent publisher isn’t left out in the cold as much. 

We also provide consultancy to our membership and help give advice and opinion in any projects they are undertaking.. 

Finally and what I’m personally most proud of, is that we have produced a platform where independent publishers can help and advise each other and develop a collective strength. So much so that we are seeing old competitors work together and a number of joint ventures being born out of networking at our events.

Steve: So it’s clearly been a great start, and so what can we look forward to seeing in the next 6-12 months from the Alliance?

Alex: We are now entering a really exciting stage for the Alliance, and a stage that I am happy to say you have agreed to help us with Steve.

Since the rise in popularity of programmatic, independent publishers have seen a distance created between them and advertising buyers and agencies. This was the result of ad buyers reducing the amount of partners they worked with and, instead, relying on certain companies that can give them the most scale and satisfy the majority of the brands they represent. Eventually most Indie publishers saw this kill off their direct sales for everything but real endemic brands.

The Alliance’s next major project is to bring independent publishers and ad buyers back together and foster some direct spending with our membership group. The group’s collective strength and scale can help fulfil the needs of an agency in a far more comprehensive way than we could individually.

Ad performance on independent publishers is extremely strong, with highly engaged and loyal users, visiting their sites regularly. If we harness the power collectively of these groups of loyal visitors we can deliver an audience for brands that is highly attentive and thus valuable to brands. Those brands will also be doing a great service to publishers by spending with the Alliance as they will be supporting independent journalism, which is extremely important. We need a varied and wide reach of opinions and content from all sorts of media outlets, not just those that are the biggest.

Steve: I’m looking forward to helping support these great plans. 

Alex: The past few years have been challenging times, but it’s been great to see many publishers big and small not just surviving but really thriving, diversifying and showcasing the ongoing importance of high quality, trusted editorial content.

I’m looking forward to sharing more interesting updates on this topic over the next 12 months so watch this space. But for now, anyone interested in finding out more please drop me or Alex a line and we’d love to hear from you, whether you’re a publisher wanting to get involved or an advertiser or agency wanting to support this great initiative.