Quantcast joined SXSW Online 2021, a digital experience that brought together creative minds from the industries of film, culture, music, and technology to share powerful new ideas and cultivate ingenuity. As part of this virtual experience, SXSW Online hosted the Creative Industries Exhibition, a digital expo that featured forward-thinking leaders from the world’s most innovative companies. Our VP of Product, Somer Simpson, represented Quantcast on the topic of “Content or Clickbait: Brand Integrity and Accountability in a Free and Open Internet.

Somer offers a unique perspective: with a background in both journalism and tech, she brings these asynchronous worlds together. At SXSW, she turned that lens on the current state of digital journalism within the context of the free and open internet. Somer posited that we are at a critical crossroads of fake news and social media echo chambers, a product of the walled gardens, and challenged us to break free.

We Are Divided

The internet has been a forum for the open expression of ideas, but the news is now as divided as our political parties–or maybe our political parties are as divided as our news. People live in protected information bubbles, primarily hearing information they agree with. Big tech companies have been either cutting publishers out or controlling the flow of ad dollars around publisher content. Data and privacy practices have made major headlines over the past 10 years, and GDPR and other privacy laws have sought to address concerns around Big Tech’s practices. But those laws have had the effect of casting a wide net, and not just holding the big fish accountable.

What is the path forward? Are we so divided that we’re stuck in these bubbles forever? Will the death of the third-party cookie drive us back to the monetization advertising strategies of 1999? Are we doomed? Absolutely not, according to Somer. 

How Will You Shape the Digital Ecosystem?

We can learn from the past and create a new future–one that is privacy-centric and rewards quality digital journalism. But first, Somer explained, we need to face the reality that the internet of today is paid for by advertising. That means “the free press is not free.” We all have a part to play in this ecosystem. 

Somer offered these solutions for marketers, publishers, and consumers to drive brand integrity and accountability in a free and open internet. 

Marketers should:

  • Demand transparency across the ecosystem for your marketing spend.
  • Put down the brand safety hammers you use today and find more precise tools to achieve your goals. They’re out there.
  • And most importantly, spend in ways that match your brand beliefs:
    • Choose to support quality digital journalism with your ad dollars.
    • Make an extra effort to support those quality publications that are POC- and woman-owned and operated.

Publishers should:

  • Partner with fewer supply partners and only those who are committed to transparency and control.
  • Partner with technology partners who will help protect and grow your ad revenue after the third-party cookie.
  • Cooperate with your publisher competitors to solve problems together with technology providers and reestablish your digital journalism position within the digital democracy.

We, as consumers, should:

  • Support quality digital journalism outside the walled gardens. 
  • Support the brands that loyally support your preferred media.
  • Look closely and understand your data rights on iOS, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and everywhere else. 
  • Think before you click that next sexy clickbait headline.

And we all need to remember that freedom requires a free press. 

Quantcast wants to be the partner to lead you on this journey. We believe that now, more than ever, it is critical to democratize successful advertising for all, not a select few. The Quantcast Platform facilitates exactly that: by providing advanced technologies for all brands, agencies, and publishers, we see a future where the playing field is leveled and empowered companies can thrive on the open internet, creating for the first time a true alternative to the walled gardens. 

Interested in Learning More? 

You can watch Somer’s presentation at SXSW Online 2021 below. To learn more about how the Quantcast Platform helps publishers, brands, and agencies, visit our detailed product pages here.