Three of the UK’s largest regional newspaper publishers have joined forces to create easy access to their online adveritising.
Edinburgh Evening News publisher Johnston Press is working with Newsquest, Local World and a number of smaller publishers on the 1XL digital initiative.
Brands will be able to reach more than 50 million online readers through 1XL, as the publishers stage a fight back against tech giants including Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
The platform will offer a one-stop digital shop with ads covering more than 800 local newspaper websites.
While the UK online ad market is worth more than £2bn annually, local newspapers have struggled to compete with the scale of global competitors such as Yahoo, AOL and MSN.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press and a former senior executive at Microsoft, said local newspaper web content is of better quality than a lot of internet content where advertisers currently commit their spend.
“Having run one of those other US portals, in the UK the difference is this is top-quality content, delivered by trusted journalists,” he said.
“The network is of the same scale of the big American portals, is of top quality and micro-addressable.”
The publishers on the 1XL platform have more than 50 million unique monthly users, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).
The largest national newspaper website, Mail Online, attracted a monthly UK web audience of 57.8 million in September, according to recent ABC figures. The Guardian, the second most popular UK paper online, attracted 35.8 million monthly unique users.
Scott Gill, group commercial director at Mediaforce, which will run the 1XL platform, said the ad platform is the “silver bullet” advertisers have been waiting for to justify investing more digital ad spend into local papers.
Revenue will be split between the partners based upon the share of digital ad inventory that each contributes to the network.
“This will create a larger UK online audience than any national newspaper website and compete with the likes of MSN, AOL and Yahoo,” said Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest.
“We are confident we can eat into the revenues currently enjoyed by a Google or Facebook by offering one booking point.”
The only one of the four largest regional newspaper group not to join the 1XL platform is Trinity Mirror, which is focusing on a “One Trinity” strategy to bring its own national and regional newspaper brands together.