News publisher Reach unveils clever tool to reverse advertisers’ ‘coronavirus blacklist’

2 min


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News publisher Reach has launched its new Mantis service (Image: REACH • GETTY)

With millions of people in lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has seen a huge increase in demand for content published online. But despite record numbers of people visiting the UK’s websites, publishers continue to struggle with monetising their stories.

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Mantis is being heralded as a major breakthrough for the news industry. (Image: REACH)

In fact, recent figures suggest that if the pandemic lasts for another three months and no action is taken, the UK news industry estimates that the total loss to the sector is expected to be in the region of £50 million.

Now one of the UK’s biggest publishers has launched an AI-powered tool aimed at helping advertisers get their message to readers alongside content which is deemed safe for their brands.

Reach, which owns a number of national and regional titles including Express.co.uk, has joined forces with IBM and Xandr to launch its new service which is being heralded as a major breakthrough for the news industry.

This new technology, dubbed ‘Mantis’, means advertising can be directed to appear only alongside news stories, including those related to the Coronavirus, that have been categorised as neutral and positive. These include informative stories about homeschooling, cooking tips, how to stay fit at home or celebrating frontline workers such as those in the NHS.

The inventory is available across a collective of premium UK publishers, enabling brands to achieve national scale.

Following testing, the Mantis tool is estimated to free up at least 70 per cent of content – from national to regional brands – that is currently blocked by keyword targeting that blanketly prevent advertising from appearing alongside terms like “Coronavirus” and “Covid-19”.

Explaining more, Benjamin Pheloung, General Manager for Mantis said: “There’s no reason why a brand shouldn’t want to have an advert placed next to a positive story, like one about sports and media personality Gary Lineker donating two months wages to the Red Cross to help fight Covid-19.”

And Tim Dutton, Client Executive for Media and Entertainment, IBM UK and Ireland, added, “Safeguarding an organisation’s brand is essential to maintaining consumer trust during this unprecedented time. We are pleased that through Mantis powered by IBM Watson, IBM will help deliver a Covid-19 ad blocking solution for safe news content across the UK.”

The news comes shortly after a letter was published by the news industry, urging advertisers to remove coronavirus blacklists from trusted UK news brands.

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