It was about time

Finally, publishers want to pull together: The editorial from Werbewoche 16/2018, October 5, 2018.


Until now, the Swiss media industry has watched almost in disbelief as digital competitors from overseas siphoned off advertising dollars. Google in particular is becoming stronger and more powerful. In June, it was announced that the search engine giant will break the two-billion-franc barrier with advertising revenues in this country in 2018. An impressive and at the same time frightening figure. For the first time, Google will generate more advertising money than the entire Swiss media landscape in the print, television and radio sectors combined. As recently as 2016, Media Focus had attributed "only" 450 million Swiss francs in advertising revenue to the Group - the increase is something to be apprehensive about. And these figures only concern Google.

Facebook generates far less advertising money, but with Instagram it has an ace up its sleeve that is also becoming increasingly popular on the advertising market. It still generates triple-digit millions in sales in Switzerland - money that is sorely lacking elsewhere.

The ideas on how to stand up to the overpowering competitors have been manifold in the past. The Admeira advertising joint venture initiated by Ringier, Swisscom and SRG, for example, dedicated itself to precisely this fight when it was launched. And generously overlooked the fact that the non-participating publishers would ask uncomfortable (and justified) questions about the role of Swisscom, which is close to the state, and SRG, which is financed by fees. Endless disputes followed, some of them in court. In the end, SRG announced its withdrawal. A concentrated offensive with bundled power from the (struggling) media industry? Not a chance. Back to field one.

Corporations like Google are probably laughing up their sleeves when they observe the helpless theater. Or rather: would observe. Because they're probably not particularly interested in it. In recent years, they have played by their own rules, ignoring European data protection laws that lag behind digitalization or, at best, interpreting them as they see fit. While the others argued among themselves, discussed closing ranks, or demanded legal regulations, they quietly (but with the enormous speed of today's market development) extended their lead over the domestic competition. The Swiss pace in finding consensus and solutions that everyone can live with (including legally) is sustainable and actually likeable. But in direct comparison with the U.S. giants, who usually already plan several steps ahead, it reaches its limits - to say the least.

An announcement, recently made at the Swiss Media Forum, raises some hope again: The publishers want to provide their news portals with a common login so that they can provide advertising customers with more precise customer profiles. For once, all the big publishers really are sitting at the negotiating table - in addition to NZZ, SRG, Somedia and AZ Medien, there are also Ringier and Tamedia, the heavyweights who have been at loggerheads since Admeira. Recently, the timetable also seems to be right: Instead of debating around the bush for a long time, as in the past, they want to launch the project as early as the beginning of 2019. Whether a common login is the last word in wisdom is not that important. What is important is that a) no more time is wasted and b) solutions are sought together and the same approach is taken in the fight against the outflow of advertising money overseas.

However, a united front is neither a solution nor a strategy in itself, but a necessary prerequisite if you want to have a chance in this seemingly hopeless tug-of-war. After that, you can get back to the problems among yourselves.

Thomas Häusermann, Editor-in-Chief a.i. Werbewoche

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