FML Blog

Adding humans to the automated ad mix, whistleblower protection in the EU and why fake news is good for business

Friday, March 31, 2017      Future Media Lab.       0

Karin Fleming

(Left) Karin Fleming, Communications Manager at EMMA/the Future Media Lab.


Continuing with our bi-weekly news roundup, Karin Fleming shares the news that caught her eye over the last two weeks. The news round-up is a way for the Future Media Lab. team and members of the Future Media Lab. network to share articles about innovations and developments in the media sector, including references to relevant media policy debates. To get this round-up sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter!



Adding humans back into the ad mix. Following a report this month that showed advertiser content was being displayed next to YouTube videos promoting hate speech, terrorism and racism, more and more companies are deciding to restrict ads to “human-checked” channels or websites that have been whitelisted. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, went from having ads on 400.000 websites to just 5.000 pre-approved sites. While you might expect there was a drop-off in the number of in the cost of impressions or the visibility of its ads, the company has reported no change. The mass exodus of advertisers from Google has led TV networks and publishers to emphasize their positions as “safe harbours”; a verified alternative to the uncertainty and vulnerability that comes from placing ad content on platforms that consist largely of user-generated content.


Talks on whistleblower protection taking place at EU-level. Earlier this week, Justice Ministers met over lunch to discuss the possibility of whistleblower rules at EU level. Recently, the European Parliament applied pressure on the European Commission to adopt rules on whistleblowers, and there is an ongoing public consultation that will run until the end of May.


Antoine Deltour, who was one of the men jailed and fined after he leaked documents from the Luxembourg branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers (LuxLeaks), argued at an ECPMF event in Strasbourg this month that the wide interpretation of “public interest” and “whistleblower” at member-state level leaves people at a disadvantage. While his actions led to stronger EU tax transparency rules, his defense expenses totaled around €60.000 and he says that the time, money and personal costs have made him hesitate. That said, he added that the fate of whistleblowers have a direct impact on the freedom of expression, since without sources journalists have limited power.


Political tumult and fake news is good for (the news) business. Mediapart, a French online news site, is directly benefiting from the political tumult around the upcoming French elections, adding 3.000 paid subscribers in the last two weeks. They have also doubled their unique monthly visitors from 2 million to 4 million. Since Mediapart is ad-free, all its revenue is coming from the subscriptions and some of the value the site offers is that paid subscribers can enter into the debate by publishing their own blogs on the site. This model not only extends the reach of the work Mediapart’s journalists are doing, since the blogs are outside of the paywall, it also creates a dialogue between the journalists and their audiences.


The bump in subscribers echoes what happened at the New York Times following the election of President Trump. In the fourth quarter of 2016, The NYTimes added over a quarter million new digital news subscriptions and 25.000 print subscribers – the best numbers they saw in six years.


Journalism under fire: UNESCO event in Paris. On 23 March, UNESCO hosted a Colloquium, “Journalism under fire: challenges of our time,” bringing together more than 200 media experts from across the world to discuss some of the challenges facing the media sector, from the rise of identity politics and threats to business models, to responses to the spread of “fake news”, the role of social media platforms, and the importance of journalism training and media and information literacy. A summary will be published on the website in the coming weeks, but in the meantime check out the Twitter page @unescoNOW and hashtag #PressFreedom for comments. You can also check out the opening speech of Marcelo Rech, President of the World Editors Forum, here.


Better Ad Standards tries to use market research to improve consumer experiences. On 22 March, the Coalition for Better Ads released initial Better Ads Standards for desktop and mobile web. The standards are based on research in which 25.000 consumers rated 104 ad experiences while they read online articles. With increasing numbers of people installing ad blockers on their desktops – a recent study by GlobalWebIndex found that 37% of European desktop users have an adblock installed – the Coalition hopes that better ads standards will slow this trend.



Bloomberg’s CEO offers a “survival guide” for the platform era. Speaking at the Digiday Publishing Summit in the U.S., Justin B. Smith, the CEO of Bloomberg Media offered 11 steps for publishers to survive the platform era. These include: obsessing over differentiation; becoming a brand management whizz; fighting for a direct relationship with your audience; being picky about platform partners; weaning yourself off programmatic advertising; and more. Read all 11 tips at



Digital innovators and media reps gather in Berlin. On 20-21 March the Digital Innovators’ Summit took place in Berlin. The annual event, hosted by VDZ and FIPP, brings together senior executives from media businesses, technology innovators and solution providers to share ideas, discuss emerging trends and showcase future products. Many of the presentations from the two-day event have been published on the DIS website – definitely worth checking them out!


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