Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Independent Marketplace – Evolving independent publishing for the better

At a time when regulatory changes and the end of third-party cookies are putting publisher revenues at risk, it’s generally smaller independent publishers that are faced with suffering the most.

To tackle this, the Independent Publishers Alliance (The Alliance) last month introduced a curated marketplace to provide advertisers with a single source of reaching ‘every adult in the UK’.

The Independent Marketplace (The Marketplace), according to The Alliance’s Co-founder Alex Newberry, is an “evolution” of The Alliance’s work in supporting independent publishers.

“The deprecation of cookies, and the fact they’ve lost pretty much all of their direct sales capabilities due to programmatic. A number of these things led the group to ask us, ‘how can you help out with ad sales? How can you help out with intros into agencies?’ So, that’s where the idea for the marketplace was born,” says Newberry.

“Getting it from the initial idea has been a long road of thinking about how we can do it to best benefit the independent publisher without becoming a network or having heavy contracting. That’s why we launched The Independent Marketplace.”

Reaching everybody for real

While The Marketplace aims to tackle the issues facing independent publishers, advertisers will have questions about how it’s beneficial to them when, often, they can achieve the same reach via platforms such as Facebook and Google, or a major publishing group.

Newberry points to a couple of key differentiators: the importance of giving back to independent journalism, and that user engagement is higher with independent publishers.

“Firstly, we need independent voices – they’re what keeps our society to task, and it’s important we’re not eaten up by the big players. Two, the communities on these sites are so engaged with the content, and with the advertising, and with the brand. There’s a reason these sites have survived the last 15 years. People want to read that content. Digital is gamed against them, but they’re still earning money,” Newberry explains.

“It’s a huge milestone for The Marketplace to offer such engaged audiences on premium publisher sites, consuming independent media, but at a scale where the buyer can reach the entire UK adult population,” he continues. “We are able to offer the reach of big adtech and media businesses without the usual risk to an advertiser of non-premium or low-grade content sites, MFA, or large domains with traditionally low ad engagement and performance.

“Throughout my career in adtech, I have experienced that, if you sign massive publisher A and smaller, indy publisher B, statistics like clickthrough rate and ad engagement are much higher on the smaller one. So, it’s not just about doing good; there’s going to be better performance returns for buyers. At the end of the day, what a buyer is looking for is ROI on their ad spend.”

A further benefit, according to Newberry, is that buying through The Marketplace gets more of the pounds spent by advertisers into the publishers’ pockets, creating better value for the brand while producing lower carbon emissions than via the open market. As such, “the overarching benefit of The Marketplace is it aims to do good, which can’t be a bad thing”.

Reaping the benefits

Helping independent publishers to achieve a revenue boost is just one of the goals of The Marketplace, with The Alliance keen to provide those publishers with avenues to have direct conversations with agencies as well.

“We want to be able to give some data to our publishers on brands that are spending, so they can open up their own conversations with these agencies again,” says Newberry. “If a small, single vertical publisher performs well for an advertiser that’s coming via The Marketplace, we want that publisher to be able to have that conversation with that buyer and strengthen their business.”

The Marketplace will also serve as a means to make The Alliance “self-sufficient,” according to Newberry. As it stands, The Alliance relies on sponsorship to run its events for publishers, but the goal is to change this.

“If we have a revenue line via the Marketplace that keeps the company self-sufficient in that way, then we can run any event we want without relying on anyone but ourselves,” Newberry adds. “To be totally secure, insular, and reliant on ourselves is such a strong point for someone who’s out there to put up a fight for the independent publisher and ruffle some feathers.”

Good business

Currently, The Alliance is taking test budgets for The Marketplace, but the aim is to have proven it as a viable route to reach engaged audiences by the end of the year.

“We want it to be considered a good place to buy ads that works for advertisers,” says Newberry. And, alongside that, The Alliance is “calling on all independent publishers that are struggling, or need a community, to join” and have the opportunity to be part of that.

“We currently have 48 media companies across 150 domains within The Marketplace and this is growing every week. We are proud of the fact that we now reach the entire UK population and 242 million users globally and growing.”

Agencies are encouraged to “have a conversation” with The Alliance to see how they gain access to The Marketplace.

“We have a couple of data partners in there, so we can offer a bit more of an educated sell in that sense. But they can buy through all their normal DSPs and fulfil their normal trade agreements in that way,” explains Newberry.

The Marketplace has been formed through a strategic partnership between The Alliance and digital advertising curation service Multilocal.

Multilocal, acting as the operations arm of The Marketplace, will facilitate the buy from any DSP, private marketplace, or via programmatic guaranteed. And agency needs can also be fulfilled at the SSP.