Five prominent news publishers have formed the Pangaea Alliance to offer media buyers programmatic access to their ad inventory. 

Tech companies like Google and Facebook have built billion-dollar digital advertising businesses and as more ad spend moves online, they stand to see their coffers swell.

That's not necessarily good news for publishers, many of which are banking on digital ad sales to keep their brands afloat.

Now, some of those publishers are teaming up in a concerted effort to create a more formidable media platform of their own.

Five prominent news publishers, The Guardian, Financial Times, CNN International, Reuters and Economist, have formed the Pangaea Alliance and will use technology from online ad tech firm Rubicon Project to offer media buyers programmatic access to their inventory beginning in April.

Combined, the Pangaea Alliance publishers allow advertisers to reach approximately 110m unique users a month.

They'll also give those advertisers the ability to target those users in attractive ways.

Tim Gentry, global revenue director at Guardian News & Media, told The Wall Street Journal:

The data is crucial. One thing we can do together is share first-party data with each other and create unique, compelling audience segments.

That might be the most attractive aspect of the new platform. Financial publishers like the Financial Times and Economist have sought-after subscriber bases, and being able to combine their subscriber data with behavioral data from the other Pangaea Alliance members could produce user profiles that advertisers see significant value in.

A meaningful development, or more of the same?

While the Pangaea Alliance will attract attention because of the names involved and the data they can offer, it's not clear that the venture, or efforts like it, will really change the digital advertising landscape.

Multiple ad tech firms, including Rubicon Project and PubMatic, offer private exchange platforms, and numerous publishers have adopted these platforms as a way to offer programmatic buying of their premium inventory. 

Indeed, some of the members of the Pangaea Alliance already have their own private exchanges, and the Wall Street Journal notes they continue to sell ads directly, including through those exchanges.

That means that the group's new platform will be used to augment the members' existing ad sales efforts, not direct them to the new platform.

Obviously, that significantly reduces the risk of the new venture, but it might also limit the upside potential.

If publishers are to ever ensure that the Googles and Facebooks of the world don't continue to gobble up more and more of the growing digital ad pie, they might need to consider that more sales channels won't necessarily result in more sales. 

Patricio Robles

Published 20 March, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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