Political-News Sites Forge Ad Group to Compete With Facebook and Google – The Wall Street Journal


Political advertising makes strange bedfellows.

News sites from across the political spectrum are joining forces to form an ad-sales alliance to compete better with

Facebook
Inc.

and Google as the 2020 election cycle heats up.

The Digital News Alliance brings together the Daily Caller and Washington Free Beacon conservative sites with the left-leaning Raw Story and AlterNet and the more centrist Mediaite and its sister site Law & Crime, the publishers announced Thursday. The alliance will offer marketers custom ad packages aimed at politically engaged readers, they said.

“This is a way to try to bring some of the ad dollars now being directed at the tech behemoths back to midsize political publishers,” said Andrew Eisbrouch, the chief operating officer and general counsel at Law & Crime. “We want to offer a package that is different from what a marketer can get on Facebook or Google.”

He said the group is in talks with other political publishers to join the alliance. Mediaite and Law & Crime are both owned by Abrams Media. AlterNet was acquired by Raw Story Inc. in 2018. The Washington Free Beacon and Daily Caller are independently owned.

Facebook and

Alphabet
Inc.’s

Google together control close to 60% of all digital-ad spending, according to eMarketer. That has put considerable financial pressure on digital publishers that rely heavily on ad revenue.

Publishers of all sizes have come together in the past to try to create national digital ad networks to compete with the big tech platforms, with mixed results.

Political ad spending for the 2020 election cycle is expected to hit a record high of $9.9 billion, according to a forecast by

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WPP

PLC ad-buying unit GroupM. Of that, $2.8 billion is expected to be directed at digital ad spending.

The Digital News Alliance will offer marketers packages that could include traditional on-site and newsletter-ad placements, sponsorships and a slate of custom content options to political campaigns, advocacy groups, political-action committees and other customers.

Neil Patel, co-founder and publisher of the Daily Caller, said the alliance “gives advertisers a way to reach the most politically engaged audiences.”

“America is changing at an incredible pace and growing more polarized in the process,” Mr. Patel said. “The Digital News Alliance cuts against the polarization.”

Together, the political sites in the Digital News Alliance attracted nearly 12 million unique visitors in the U.S. in May, Comscore Inc. data show. The sites’ publishers said the ad alliance would allow them to pool the resources of their relatively small ad-sales teams so they can focus more on editorial operations.

“This alliance will help fortify digital journalism’s position in challenging market conditions and will bolster our continuing efforts to provide high-quality investigative reporting to our readers,” said Aaron Harison, president of the Washington Free Beacon.

Write to Lukas I. Alpert at lukas.alpert@wsj.com



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