news publishers 2021

News Publishers Expect Advertisers to Return This Year — Here’s Why

With just days left before President Trump departs the White House and the Biden administration moves into place, news publishers seem to be walking the line between hopeful and cautious as they look at what 2021 may hold.

High expectations are moving the industry forward, as news publishers look at future-proofing opportunities for revenue optimization. Many believe that having a more “brand-safe” president will lead to a bump in display advertising this year, as brands begin to feel more comfortable about the content their ads are running alongside.

In a recent interview, G/O Media Chief Revenue Officer Brian Kelly said he’s anticipating a “more aggressive ad spending marketplace” in the coming months, particularly within the news category, thanks to a less chaotic administration and the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines.

While shelter-in-place orders led to a huge uptick in page views and subscription rates for news publishers in 2020, particularly during the earliest days of the pandemic, those page views didn’t directly lead to an increase in advertising revenue. The same lockdown orders that caused people to stay inside scouring the internet also caused many brands to pull back on digital spending.

A chaotic presidency didn’t help matters, either. As the Trump presidency went on, advertisers grew more and more concerned about whether their ads would appear adjacent to inappropriate news content related to politics, including hate speech. With the Biden administration moving into place, some of those fears are fading and there is hope among news publishers that advertisers who pulled back on spending over the past four years will gradually move back into the fold.

Although long-term deals became more rare in 2020, there is hope that as companies face less economic uncertainty in 2021, those types of long-term advertising deals will return.

Another reason for optimism among news publishers is the recent integration of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media’s brand safety floor and suitability framework into a number of brand safety tools. Once implemented, those safety tools should be more discreet than what we’ve seen in the past. They’ve been designed to allow more advertisers to move away from generic block lists, which were never favorable for publishers, and into a place where more advertising inventory can begin to be monetized again on open exchanges.

In tracking which keywords have gotten blocked the most in the past four years, IAB recently found that “Trump” is one of the most blocked terms. “Coronavirus” is another keyword that’s become a common block list entry over the past year. However, as vaccines roll out throughout 2021, there is hope that news publishers will be able to move past the pandemic. Even once that happens, though, there’s plenty of work still to be done.

Having the Trump name in fewer headlines will bring more advertisers back to news websites, but that alone won’t be enough to return display advertising to its heyday. For that to happen, news publishers say there will need to be less vitriol between the political parties, so advertisers have more positive content for their ads to run alongside.

With cookies going away and e-commerce exploding, news publishers are finding more opportunities for monetization in 2021 than in year’s past. Personalization tactics are already being set up, so brands and news publishers can deliver more relevant experiences at scale. Those experiences will hopefully create more value for advertisers, so digital news publishers can maintain a competitive advantage over their more traditional counterparts in the news media.

What is your advertising outlook for 2021? Have you started seeing more advertisers returning, or are you still waiting for the boost?