Mar 10, 2020 - Economy

Vox Media and Google launch "Concert Local" ad network

Illustration: Vox Media

Vox Media, the parent company to brands like The Verge, SB Nation, GrubStreet and more, is partnering with Google to create a local advertising network called "Concert Local."

By the numbers: While neither party would confirm the amount, it's understood that the investment is over $1 million.

  • The funding is coming through the Google News Initiative program and is one of the largest single-publisher investments that Google is making of this kind, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The marketplace will bring together ad inventory from many local news publishers, making it easier for big, national advertisers to target local news audiences.

  • In the past, big brands would mostly have to target local media consumers by buying ads from local news sites individually. Now, they can buy local audiences across one giant pool of collective ad inventory that Vox Media and Google are pulling together.
  • "What we have experienced is that brand budgets typically don't find their way to local media news sites on orders of the magnitude that are making a difference to local communities and newsrooms," says Jason Washing, Managing Director, News Partnerships at Google.

Details: Vox Media will work with global media agency Omnicom Media Group as a launch partner. the media group within Omnicom Group. This means they'll connect clients with Concert Local across their agencies of OMD, Hearts & Science, PHD and Resolution. 

  • Concert Local has brokered partnerships with a dozen publishers to-date, including Advance Local, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, CNHI, Dallas Morning News, Deseret News, Hearst Newspapers, Star Tribune, Tampa Bay Times, and Texas Monthly.
  • It will leverage Vox Media's existing footprint in local markets through websites that have hyper-local listings and journalism, like Eater, Curbed and SB Nation.
  • Pending partnerships will be announced in the near future.

Google isn't providing new technology, says Trei Brundrett, Chief Operating Officer at Vox Media. "We've had a longstanding partnership with them. Google Ads Manager has been the system of record that we've relied on for Concert since the very beginning and nothing changes about that."

  • Instead, Google will help connect Vox Media to local publishers that it has relationships with and will help Vox Media improve the quality of its ad network.
  • Vox Media will be developing new ad products, says Brundrett. Those products will take advantage of the local experience using things like maps and local data.
  • Currently, Vox Media uses a proprietary ad unit called Athena to personalize ads at the national level. It will leverage this ad unit at the local level as well.

Be smart: The new marketplace is an extension of Vox Media's existing national ad marketplace, called Concert, and its existing software licensing business.

  • Concert works with over 100 media companies to pool quality ad inventory for advertisers to target people against. Over 700 brands have used Concert.
  • Chorus, Vox Media's content management system software, is currently licensed to 8 publishers for them to build their websites.
  • Coral, a comments engagement platform that Vox Media acquired last year from the Mozilla Foundation, works with over 60+ newsrooms globally.
  • In total, Vox Media has 150+ publishers globally that are software clients.

The big picture: The idea is for Vox Media to develop an end-to-end technology stack for publishers at all levels to be able to license to create a better user experience and to make more money. Other publishers, like The Washington Post and Minute Media, are also leaning into software sales as a way of bolstering revenue and helping smaller publishers.

The bottom line: "I think we have a shared mission in terms of seeing the opportunity, value and importance of local journalism," says Brundrett. "Google has relationships with local partners and the resources to help us scale it."

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