News CEO takes fight to distributors, aggregators

News CEO takes fight to distributors, aggregators

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson launched a verbal attack on digital distributors and aggregators following the company’s second quarter results, accusing them of profiting at the expense of content creators and of truth and accuracy in a world of fake news.

Mr Thomson also was critical of ad agencies and their programmatic networks because they at times artificially aggregated audiences and plied them with content of dubious origin.

His criticisms followed hard on the current dispute over a lack of transparency over the measurement of views on social media sites, such has Facebook.

“Advertisers want reassurance that their products are displayed in suitable surroundings,” Mr Thomson said.

“In the ad market, there has been an awakening and there will surely be a reckoning.

“We are in an era in which integrity is priceless, yet digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious, highlighting an issue which we have long stressed – that they have eroded the integrity of content by undermining its provenance. Put simply, content distributors are profiting at the expense of content creators and at the expense of veracity.

“There are clearly social, as well as commercial, consequences to this contradiction and the issue is far from being resolved – a tweak to an algorithm, or a fact check here or there, does not address the basic problem.

“Ad agencies and their programmatic networks are also at fault because they have sometimes artificially aggregated audiences, and these are then plied with content of dubious provenance – the agencies win, the fabricators of the fake win, and advertisers and society both lose.

“Affinity and integrity are core elements of a sustainable relationship between advertiser and consumer, and yet affinity and integrity are far too often missing in the modern marketplace.”

Mr Thomson said audiences were craving integrity, which was why many of the company’s mastheads had reported strong growth in readers and subscribers.

He noted that The Wall Street Journal had experienced a significant increase in paid digital subscribers through the US presidential election, surpassing the one million mark in the fourth quarter of 2016. The New York Post digital network also had an audience of more than 76 million in November.

“This reflects an increased appetite for quality journalism in an era of remarkable upheaval,” he said.

Mr Thomson said that News Corp was testing its own digital ad network, “which will provide a measurable, high quality audience for advertisers, who are increasingly wary, and rightly so, about the murky, tenebrous world of digital advertising”.

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