How Publishers are Monetizing News During Challenging Times

Consumption of news content is steadily on the rise and will only increase with the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and as we enter the 2024 election season. Publishers have a massive opportunity to take advantage of the traffic boost by monetizing video around their news content, yet media buyers traditionally steer clear of all things news-related.

In a timely session at PubForum New Orleans, Johanna Bergqvist, General Manager, The Americas, EX.CO, moderated a discussion with leaders from and News Corp to find out how publishers can make their video inventory more brand-safe and appealing to media buyers so they can increase fill rates and revenue. 

Advertisers are Demonetizing News Content 

In preparing for the PubForum session, David Rowley, VP, Revenue Technology, News Corp, shared he saw a Pew Research fact that there has been an 80% decline in news monetization from 2006 through 2020. 

“There are a lot of externalities to explain that. Programmatic became a thing, the reduction in CPMs, walled gardens started taking up more of the pie, and ad blocking. Now in the present day, the Israel-Hamas War is another iteration and possibly an even bigger one around the monetization of news and how difficult it can be,” said Rowley. 

Rowley shared that News Corp’s platforms are struggling in different ways because of the Israel-Hamas War news coverage. The Wall Street Journal is primarily direct sold, and many of its blue-chip brand advertisers are pulling back and wanting to avoid running against the war’s content. On the other hand, there is the New York Post, which is more focused on programmatic and is seeing declining CPMs from news monetization.

Jeremy Gan, SVP, Revenue Operations & Data Strategy,, said that advertisers had a similar reaction to his publication and pulled their advertising. 

“We understand why they pulled it, but it is also the time where our readership is the most engaged and checking the live feeds multiple times per day, and Daily Mail is trying to monetize on those,” said Gan. “We analyzed pre and post on our website. It’s 20% more in time spent on page, and they’re reading 10% more each view across the board.”

Publishers, Demand that Brands Unblock You

EX.CO is an online video platform that works with hundreds of publishers. News is one of EX.CO’s strongest verticals for its local and larger partners. Bergqvist asked Tom Pachys, Co-Founder and CEO, EX.CO, to share what his publisher partners are saying about the monetization of news content.

“We’re trying to help the publishers fight back the complexity of the value chain. We see the right news getting more of their budgets, which only shows that these kinds of decisions are not really logical decisions but their moral opinions,” said Pachys.

Rowley agreed and recommended one way to combat this news monetization challenge is to push for unblocking keywords. 

“A lot of this boils down to the fact that keywords stay on block lists forever and way past their shelf life. Publishers should go to your advertisers and agencies to unblock them and be persistent about it in order to try to get some change to happen,” said Rowley.

At, Gan shared that a strategy it is implementing is doubling down on other verticals like sports or finance, which tend to be more brand-safe while still heavily investing in news content. 

“It’s diversification of revenue for us. With the cookiepocalypse aside, it’s about how we build a new flow of revenue in an environment where we can monetize at a higher CPM. The direction we’re taking is in building a more resilient revenue stream,” said Gan. 

The Halo Effect of Consumers and Trusted News Content

Bergqvist referred to the halo effect with news content. There has been a lot of research that there is no negative impact on consumer brand perception if a brand is associated with a trusted piece of news content. But brands are still blocking any ads that may be risky.

“It’s not about whether the reader associates an ad with negative content. It’s more about what my friends are going to say about me or whether the brand will see this ad close to anything negative, and I’m going to get a phone call. That’s how a lot of decisions are being made,” said Pachys.

Rowley said that no one wants to be that person at a publisher who didn’t update the block list because of something sensitive or negative in the news.

“That’s what we have to fight constantly. Because with news, especially negative news, there is the halo effect. If you are in a trusted environment, customers don’t care. This is all an internal conversation between us and our higher-ups and brands and their higher-ups and agencies. Readers don’t think this way. They’re not making that dichotomy,” said Rowley. “Plead with brands and advertisers to understand the halo effect and stay in those environments because it will help your brand.”