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News brands explore joint ad sales

News, 25 October 2016

LONDON: Many of the UK's leading national newspaper groups are working on plans to create a single advertising sales operation, and other cost-sharing measures, as they struggle to stem the decline in print advertising revenues.

According to sources speaking to the Financial Times, national newspaper publishers met this month and agreed to look into how they can work together more closely through an initiative that has been dubbed "Project Juno".

The thinking is that a single sales team would make it easier for advertisers to place ads both online and in print editions, on top of cutting operational and staff costs.

The TV industry in the UK has already adopted a similar approach where three advertising operations co-ordinate sales on behalf of hundreds of commercial channels.

"We are convinced that a shared commercial future for news brands presents a significant opportunity for both us and our customers," said Steve Booth, chair of the joint newspaper project. "As such we will continue to investigate if this can be brought to fruition," he added.

According to Booth, all the main UK news groups are taking part in the project, including Daily Mail and General Trust, News UK, which owns the Times and the Sun, as well as Northern and Shell, the publishers of the Daily Express, and the Guardian.

For its part, the Financial Times said it is not taking an active part in the discussions because of its global focus, but a spokesman said it is watching progress with interest and welcomes "all efforts of collaboration to ensure a sustainable future for the newspaper industry".

However, the newspaper is also taking other measures to bolster its ad revenues and last week announced the results of a 30-day experiment to counter the use of ad blocking technology.

Out of a sample of 15,000 registered online readers, the Financial Times revealed that almost 40% agreed to view advertising when asked to do so, even when given the option of dismissing the notice.

"Through open dialogue with FT readers we are emphasising the importance of advertising as a revenue stream for quality, independent journalism," said Dominic Good, the FT's Global Advertising Sales & Strategy Director.

"These results show that FT readers accept advertising as part of the reader/publisher value exchange, and they trust us to create the best possible advertising experience with our partners."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff