CNN says it's being unfairly punished by advertisers

Screenshot/CNNCNN’s Jake Tapper and Former FBI Director James Comey
  • CNN says that too many advertisers are shying away from supporting news, even as people consume more news content than ever.
  • The company’s digital editor-in-chief urged advertisers to rethink their definitions of what is brand safe, saying that too many are lumping in hard news with offensive or inappropriate content.
  • The news giant contends that if advertisers don’t change their thinking, more digital news will be put behind subscription paywalls, and won’t be fully accessible to the masses.

CNN is trying to make the point that bad news, or scary news, or just plain crazy news, is not the same as fake news.

And no matter how divided America is at the moment, or however volatile the world becomes, news is brand safe.

Meredith Artley, SVP & Editor In Chief for CNN Digital Worldwide, said that too many advertisers are painting news content with the same brush as web content that has been deemed unsafe, whether that’s ads next to hate videos on YouTube or alongside fake news articles on Facebook.

The executive called for a new definition of brand safe content, one that includes CNN’s hard news stock in trade, during a keynote at the Collision Conference in New Orleans on Wednesday.

“In these turbulent times, advertisers might not want to be associated with news that is just bad,” she said. “You can kinda understand that.”

“But it’s problematic for CNN and for many other news organisations,” she said.

Thus Artley urged advertisers to rethink brand safety. “It’s not about marketers wanting to not be next to so-called bad content,” she said. “It’s about marketers wanting to be inside the umbrella of a trusted news brand.”

A trusted news brand might feature debate and disagreements. “It’s not something affirming your beliefs that you’ll find in your feeds in the filter bubbles we all live in these days,” she argued.

It won’t be easy to change brands’ minds. Given the divisive political environment in the US, many marketers have been burned badly by ending up associated with political and social issues, whether they intended to or not.

Thus, some brands and ad agencies have taken to steering their ads away from news content entirely.

Artley wants to help change that. During her keynote, she rattled off a flurry of statistics showcasing CNN’s recent growth. It’s among the biggest sites on the web, and tops among millennial news consumers, for instance.

Her overall point: Consumers are exhibiting rabid interest in news in 2018, and they’re seeking established news organisations to feed that interest. And brands should want to be part of that.

Artley warned against expecting consumers to pay to fund all digital news through subscriptions.

“You really don’t want a situation where advertisers want to be up against good news and nothing else, and the rest, everything else needs to be put behind a paywall,” she said. “Then it becomes less accessible to the people who might need it most.”

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