News publishers are losing millions in ad revenue, as advertisers deem COVID-19 related content as not brand-safe.
Bogus health sites, like the ones operated by NaturalNews.com, for example, generate 60 times the traffic of MayoClinic.org, NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill told Publishers Daily.Health is the largest category of misinformation websites, even more than politics, he noted.
“Coronavirus” is the most-blocked keyword on the Integral Ad Science system, a digital ad verification company.
As of mid-March, the system had more than 3,000 advertisers blocking the term "coronavirus," The Wall Street Journal reported. IAS blocked over 1.36 billion ads near the end of March, up from 64 million in February, according to BuzzFeed.
In a blog post, ad platform Amobee noted that 45% of all media content consumption is related to COVID-19. Content tagged with the "coronavirus" keyword is often service journalism, as more people spend time at home and online.
“Brands can suffer from scale challenges if they exclude everything related to the pandemic,” reads the post.
The solution NewsGuard is offering? Data. The company’s team of journalists has been tracking the domains publishing COVID-19 misinformation for the past six weeks, in its Coro navirus Misinformation Tracking Center. The list currently includes 149 sites.
That blacklist, as well as NewsGuard's ratings of thousands of news publishers vetted by its analysts, is being offered for use in programmatic ad targeting, pro bono.
Advertisers can choose to target ad placements on sites deemed trustworthy by NewsGuard — and avoid serving ads on sites publishing COVID-19 misinformation.
Amobee and UM are some of the companies teaming up with NewsGuard to offer the data to its customers.
“Unfortunately, many brands are so worried about their ads appearing on false COVID-19 content, they have chosen to pull their ads from all news about the virus — which not only deprives them of valuable and engaged audiences, but also harms legitimate news organizations doing important journalism,” Brill stated. “Our data can help advertisers continue supporting legitimate news sources while avoiding sending ad dollars to sites peddling misinformation.”
NewsGuard had already given free access to its browser extension that displays credibility ratings beside links on search engines and social-media feeds. The extension, which normally costs $2.95 a month, is free until July 1.
NewsGuard also announced a partnership with Peer39, an advertising data company integrated into a number of programmatic ad-buying platforms, so its database can be used to target and filter ad buys.
NewsGuard is offering the service to all clients of IPG Mediabrands in the UK as well, through an existing partnership that began last year.
Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz launched NewsGuard in September 2018.
The company provides credibility ratings for news and information websites and assigns green, yellow and red "reliability ratings." It charges licensing fees to social-media platforms, online search companies and aggregators.