LONDON: Regional publishers in the UK have warned of "the dangers of blind programmatic ad buying" as they make a play for national advertisers' digital spending in the wake of the brand safety issues that have engulfed YouTube.

1XL, an alliance of regional publishers representing more than 800 local news brands across the UK, has published an open letter highlighting the safety advantages of advertising with local news brands.

Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest warned that "blind programmatic ad buying" was placing household brands next to extremist content and fake news. "The crisis of confidence in the national digital advertising market continues," he said. "Google and Facebook are keen to apologise but they don't have credible answers."

Not only is the content in regional news brands produced by skilled personnel, he argued, "it is regulated, it relies on human judgement and discretion as opposed to blind algorithms, and it reaches and engages millions of people in communities throughout the UK.

"As a result, our advertising environment is trusted, safe and highly responsive."

1XL claims to reach over 70% of the adult population each month in many towns and cities and noted that a recent ComScore survey of UK internet users found that people trusted content on local news sites almost three times more than they did that on social media.

Scott Gill, Managing Director of 1XL, added that the organisation's "unique proposition provides advertisers with the authority to reach local audiences at scale.

"We believe that publishers need to come together to put pressure on other less transparent trading platforms/SSPs to introduce a recognised and endorsed system of inventory quality," he declared, adding: "We believe 1XL's online advertising charter is setting the standard for this."

Regional publishers are desperate to get their hands on digital spending to offset the continued decline in print ad revenues. Only last week, Johnston Press, one of 1XL's member publishers reported a £300m pre-tax loss after ad revenues fell 18% in one year, almost entirely due to declining print ad spending.

Data sourced from 1XL, Campaign; additional content by WARC staff