AOP's Richard Reeves on Stuff, Google vs US Publishers, and Spotify Audience Network

On this week’s episode of the MadTech Podcast, Richard Reeves, managing director of the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), joins ExchangeWire’s Mat Broughton and Ciaran O’Kane to discuss the latest news in ad tech and martech.


Together, they discuss:


- The head of New Zealand’s top-ranking news website has said that leaving Facebook has had no impact on traffic, and has even increased trust with readers. Speaking to Reuters Institute as part of their global journalism series, Sinead Boucher, CEO of Stuff, said that withdrawing the publication from Facebook and Instagram was supposed to be a discreet, “internal experiment”, precipitated by the decision to stop advertising on the platforms a year earlier, although the move was leaked shortly afterwards.

Stuff executives decided to pull advertising on Facebook in March 2019, having been dismayed at the social media giant’s weak response to the live-streaming of the Christchurch mosque attack on their platform. Over a year later in July 2020, Stuff withdrew their content from Facebook and Instagram, and to their surprise, saw almost no impact on their audience. Now, 7 months on, the dip in traffic is still considered statistically insignificant, and unique visitors numbers have remained steady. The site’s direct and search traffic has risen, whilst between 10-11% still come from Facebook via user sharing.

Whilst the stats are encouraging, Boucher admits being concerned that ditching Facebook has cut them off from readers who use the platform as their main source of news, particularly during a time where quality journalism is vital to stemming misinformation. Trustworthiness now forms the foundation of Stuff’s success metrics, and the publisher have received approval and financial support from readers.


- Google have entered talks with US publishers regarding plans to launch their News Showcase in the market. According to Digiday, however, things haven’t got off to a good start - whilst some publishers have stated that they would prefer to negotiate with digital platforms collectively, Google have indicated that they would rather broker deals individually. 

According to Richard Gingras, Google’s vp of news, publishers would in fact prefer to forge individual agreements, this having proved to be the case with most publishers who have already signed up to the initiative in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and the UK. President of USA Today Network Maribel Wadsworth disagrees, however, asserting that collective bargaining “would be an important start” towards publishers “achieving proper recognition” for their work.

David Spiegel, vp of digital revenue at California Times Group gave a middle-ground perspective, saying that collective bargaining could benefit smaller and more niche publishers who don’t hold as much leverage individually as some of the markets’ bigger players. Meanwhile, media outlets are continuing to push for more legislation to protect them from decimation by Big Tech. The Journalism Competition Preservation Act (first introduced in 2019), continues to enjoy support, with a new bill that also aims to ensure negotiations provide equal benefits to all involved expected to be introduced in a number of weeks.


- Spotify has launched Spotify Audience Network, an audio advertising marketplace where advertisers can reach consumers across Spotify’s properties (ad-supported music service, Spotify original podcasts, and podcasts hosted on subsidiaries Megaphone and Anchor). The new offering “will give advertisers the ability to reach and target audiences at scale both on and off Spotify,” said Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer.

Whilst US consumers are spending around as much time listening to podcasts as they are watching digital video, growth in digital audio advertising pales in comparison to that of its video counterpart. Despite offering a greater number of measurement signals than radio or satellite, advertisers have so far proved reluctant to embrace audio. This has been exacerbated by podcast consumption historically being measured by downloads rather than streams.

The launch of Spotify Audience Network follows the company’s introduction of streaming ad insertion (SAI) technology earlier last year, which provides real-time targeting and more granular audience measurement for campaigns run alongside Spotify’s original podcasts. The firm plans to expand the offering to Megaphone and Anchor, and are set to expand their self-serve ad platform for audio and video ads, Spotify Ad Studio, to podcasts.