News Corp takes on Facebook, YouTube with global ad platform

News Corp has finally launched the global digital advertising platform that the company’s top executives have been touting for the last several months. The company has been eager to make its moves in digital adtech while capitalizing on the major points of weakness coming from the digital duopoly.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson has spent the past year criticizing the digital advertising space, and particularly its two leaders Facebook and Google. The verbal attacks were spurred in part by an investigative report published by News Corp-owned Times of London earlier this year, which found that major brands’ advertising was appearing alongside extremist video content on YouTube. That exposé led to YouTube’s so-called adpocalypse, in which several top advertisers pulled adverts from the site.

With the new ad platform, News Corp joins the horde of media firms looking to elbow-in on the digital duopoly’s market by launching new “brand safe” platforms for advertisers.

Thomson said he is “deeply concerned by the abusive algorithms and by an adulterated digital ad market, which had promised transparency, but has delivered opacity, undermining the confidence of advertisers in the digital marketplace,” speaking at the company’s latest earnings call, which took place in early November.

“It is clear that advertisers want their products to be promoted on sites that enhance, not tarnish, their image and that they want metrics that are reliable, not risible,” Thomson said.

Thomson has said brands are now more “sophisticated” about digital advertising after YouTube’s adpocalypse and Facebook’s recent video viewership blunders and the rise of “fake news.” Brands are “tired of their ads showing up next to vile and vacuous content, and fed up with mad and manipulated metrics,” he said.

News Corp’s platform, called News IQ, includes first party data and data science tools, as well as access to its premium inventory from its publishing properties. News IQ is based on the company’s earlier advertising platform, News Connect, which launched in Australia in 2015. The company plans to expand News IQ to the UK next year, thereby giving the company an advertising foot in each of the major English-speaking markets in the world – where Facebook and Google reign supreme.

News Corp’s assets span book publisher HarperCollins, news publications Wall Street Journal, New York Post, MarketWatch, and Barron’s; and the company also owns and digital news aggregator Storyful. While News Corp has seen modest growth in its digital advertising business – which has served mainly to offset losses in print – the company is hoping to leverage its first party data and its premium publications to bolster digital advertising across its properties.

The idea is to raise ARPU across its digital properties by monetizing its audience data and demographics, and offering up that information to advertisers to improve targeting. Inventory will be sold through its major channels, leveraging relevant first party data as needed to reach targeted audiences. “The ability to increase yield as we identify reader demographics is obviously at the heart of the new advertising platform we’re building here in the US,” Thomson told investors earlier this year as he talked about the platform.

Thomson has pledged to investors that the ad platform will offer “real reach, without fear of guilt by association.” The News IQ platform promises access to 140 million consumers in the US – including cord cutters, the company was quick to point out. That figure is “de-duped,” according to Thomson, “unlike many inflated numbers in the digital world. Better to be de-duped than duped,” he said.

News IQ advertisers will be able to leverage News Corps’ global footprint and user data with content solutions that offer scalable audiences. “This isn’t about blasting consumers with ads they don’t care about but intelligently engaging consumers and driving real results for our partners,” said Jesse Angelo, who was appointed to head up the company’s digital advertising division earlier this year.

The company claims the platform will offer a “clean solution” to Facebook’s “fake news” problem. “Audiences are craving integrity, which is why so many of our mastheads have reported strong growth in readers and subscribers,” Thomson said earlier this year, adding that advertisers need “real results, not the muddled, muddied metrics of many digital platforms.”

News Corp announced the official launch of News IQ just one day after YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, addressed some of YouTube’s ongoing content concerns. In recent weeks, concerns about child predators using YouTube have surfaced, adding to a growing list of inappropriate content that’s available on the user-generated video network.