Five premium publishers have joined forces to share inventory, data, audiences, and targeting technology in a global collaboration called Pangaea, which provides access to a combined audience of 110 million online readers. The Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, Reuters, and The Economist will launch their programmatic sales alliance in beta this month, with a full launch expected later this year.

It’s true other publishers have tried this before, notably the QuadrantONE alliance – comprising The New York Times Co., Tribune Company, Hearst, and Gannett. Unfortunately this alliance failed. But that was during a time of great change within the ad tech industry and integrating disparate platforms at that time would have been a challenge even for Google. There are other alliances that have had more success, for example, La Place Media has been operational in France since 2012.

As a publisher, the question is: why throw yourself in with your competition to gain eyeballs? As the director of global revenue at Guardian News and Media and leader of the Pangaea alliance, Tim Gentry, simply declared, “The data is crucial. One thing we can do together is share first-party data with each other and create unique, compelling audience segments”. So really it is all about scale. This is a smart move and a page straight out of the programmatic playbook.

Previously, data targeting quite literally took audience data and profiles from publishers who soured on the idea of cooperating with third parties. But publishers were also late to the targeting game. Now with Pangaea they are catching up. And rightly so. Audiences start at the publication level and advertisers follow the audience. So a premium publisher can now share, scale, and create new targeting segments to serve advertisers in ways they cannot alone. Pleasing advertisers means business they would otherwise forgo.

Now the question to ask is whether the alliance will choose the right technology and unify under it for success. News reports say the alliance will use the Rubicon Project platform – a good start.

But we hope to see a semantic or Natural Language Processing (NLP) component to the effort. Measuring audience clicks and demographics is one thing. But combining it with deep and accurate analysis of the content across all five publishers would be a force multiplier hard to replicate elsewhere and, surely, would give the alliance a competitive advantage.

A Yahoo / Innerscope Research study explored consumers’ emotional reactions to digital ads and concluded that behavioural targeting led to a 27% increase in engagement, while contextually relevant ads increased engagement by 15%. Yahoo also found that when used in conjunction, behavioural and contextual targeting led to a 40% lift. The report concluded that: “When the intention is to emotionally and cognitively connect with the consumer at the highest level, contextual and personal relevance combined is most likely to elicit stronger responses than each on its own.”

Ultimately, the deepest available understanding of inventory leads to better targeting. This should not be a surprise. Knowing your audience by also understanding what content they are consuming is a killer combination. And if you’re a publication shouldn’t you be using the very thing that is your lifeblood – content – to serve advertisers better? We think so and can prove it over and over again.

Good luck to Pangaea! We will keep a keen eye on the developments of the alliance and are hopeful they integrate a semantic or NLP capability into the stack to offer truly targeted campaigns and deeper connections with the audience.

Giovanni Strocchi

Giovanni Strocchi


Giovanni Strocchi is CEO at ADmantX.