Tracy de Groose

Newsworks’ executive chair Tracy De Groose attended the Society of Editors 20th anniversary conference this where she delivered a speech ‘The Missing Billion’, calling on the industry to unite and help tell a joined-up story of growth in order bring back much needed ad revenue.

You can read the full speech below.

The Missing Billion

Good afternoon. I’m going to dive straight in and start with the C-word and talk to you about commercial.


Because we need to talk about the money. We have been selling the wrong thing and for too long. We need to change that. Fast. And, I can only do that with your help and support. So, why have we have we been selling the wrong thing? Because as an industry we’ve been selling our advertising space and not our journalism. It has lost us about one billion pounds of ad revenue over the last decade. One billion pounds less at a time when we really need it. But now we have a perfect window to change that. A perfect window to start getting the investment back into journalism.

Why? Because we are at a critical crossroads for the news industry. News readership is at record levels. 44 million people read news journalism across newspapers and digital devices every week. 44 million is about 4 to 5 million more readers than a decade ago. That’s 10% growth. And more importantly 44 million is the same weekly reach as Google. That surprises many people.

Why? Because no one in our industry ever talks about total readership. The story that has dominated over the last 10 years has been the one about declining newspaper circulations. Newspapers are important. 11 million people read a national newspaper every day. But 19 million people are reading our journalism online. That’s around two-thirds of our audience. It’s where our growth in readership is coming from.

And that’s where it will continue to come from. Two million more people every day are reading news journalism online compared to a year ago. So, record numbers are reading the news. And readers are following us and our journalism as we transition online.

In any other sector that kind of growth would be celebrated, packaged up and sold, and told repeatedly, to advertisers who play a huge part in funding our industry.

Why do we have a window of opportunity right now? Because public trust in news brands and demand for trusted sources of news and information is soaring. The perception of the news industry is changing – trust is on the rise.

According to our research 69% of people say they trust their chosen news brand. Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows that people’s trust in established news brands grew from 48% in 2017 to 60% this year. Compare that to social media where trust languishes at 29%.

Six out of 10 people say they rely more heavily on established news brands since the rise of fake news. Hardly surprising when you consider the alleged meddling by Russia into our democratic processes, the proliferation of fake news and the spread of misinformation.

And let’s not forget Google’s dodgy track record on brand safety and the ad revenue they mistakenly generated from jihadi videos.

With the General Election exactly a month away Facebook’s stance on political ads brings all these problems back into stark focus. Recently I heard three senior journalists explain why it’s both a great time to be a journalist and a critical time for journalism.

Why? Because people are looking for depth. They are demanding more analysis, news and information from the experts they can trust. Journalism matters. Now more than ever.

So, where does that leave us? On all the metrics that matter to advertisers – growth, trust and demand – we are in great shape. But – and it’s that big one billion pound but – for all this growth the money still isn’t coming our way.

According to the forecasts online ad revenue is set to rise by 5% this year. Mildly encouraging, but far from enough.

Why isn’t the money coming faster? The simple answer. Digital advertising is broken. It is dominated by an open marketplace in which content has been sold as one amorphous mass. There is little attention to the quality of the content. Or the attention of the audience. In fact, the word “content” has been hijacked by the bullshitters, the propogandists, the fakers, and the like.

This means quality journalism is being lumped together with this “content” and sold to advertisers. Those advertisers now find themselves in this bonkers situation where they are no longer sure where their advertising is being shown. Nor are they sure if it is being seen by a human. Unsurprisingly trust in advertising has slumped to an all-time low. From 50% to 25% according to the Advertising Association.

So, why aren’t things changing? They are. Thankfully the advertisers, the regulators and the politicians are beginning to wake up to all of this. But it is slow. And the stranglehold the tech platforms have on the advertising market is tight.

However, the digital world is shifting on its axis and the next phase of digital advertising is looking significantly brighter for publishers. Every piece of evidence shows that concentrating digital spend into quality journalistic environments delivers. And more and more advertisers are ready to listen.

Why do I need your help? Because we have to take advantage of this shift. We can’t sit here and expect everything to fall into our laps. We can’t let the opportunity pass us by. We are the greatest storytellers. But we haven’t always been great at telling our own story. We need to change this and fast.

We must learn to tell one unified industry story, more powerfully, more consistently and more frequently. I am committing to be a figurehead for this. Next week I am off to the United Nations to talk about the digital ad market and the many challenges that I have outlined here today. I am going to make more noise in more places to help turn the tide in our direction.

So, if I could ask one thing from you all it would be to give our industry the oxygen of publicity it deserves, to get our side of the story out there. In the coming weeks I’ll be in touch to talk about how you can help build this movement.

Why? Because journalism matters. And we want that billion back.