This article originally appeared on Stratégies. Read the original article in French here.


At a time when the Etats Généraux de l’Information, an initiative to protect free journalism, is underway in France, the question of how to finance news is becoming increasingly thorny. One solution remains under-exploited: AI.


The news media were dreading it, but it’s happened: for the first time in 2023, their digital advertising revenues has started to fall, according to the SRI and Udecam e-ad Observatory. The drop (-6%) is all the more worrying given that the digital advertising market itself is growing by 9%.


Why have we lost ground? Because, depending on the year, the GAFA companies account for 80% to 90% of advertising investment. Nothing new there. But until now, this virtual hegemony has not prevented players in the ‘News & Publishing’ category from at least getting a slice of the pie. Why is this share shrinking today, while media sites continue to achieve more than respectable audience figures? Because interest in information remains strong: according to the ACPM, 96% of French people read at least one brand of press every month, 68% of them digitally.


However, these audiences are still insufficiently valued: there is currently no systemic standard enabling media sites to measure the impact of an advertising campaign as accurately and reliably as the ‘walled gardens’ can. But what penalises these content sites most of all is their lack of monetizable video inventory: even though the major news media have invested in this area, their production cannot compete with that of the big platforms. And yet, among advertising formats, video is increasingly dominant: it grew by a further 11% this year, and now accounts for more than 50% of all digital advertising, according to the Observatoire de l’e-pub.


The result: no (or not enough) video content, no advertising revenue. But producing quality videos is still expensive, and producing enough to compete with streaming platforms is simply becoming impossible. Even for major media brands with large audiences.


So how can news websites solve the equation, and not resign themselves to letting advertising budgets slip away? The ‘Etats généraux de l’information’, which are currently taking place throughout France, are due to result in proposed legislation by the summer. The industry is calling for advertisers to be obliged to entrust a proportion of their advertising investment to news websites.

Photo by Obi – @pixel8propix on Unsplash


Combining AI and video content to create relevant advertising space

There is another, less regulatory but no doubt just as effective, avenue worth exploring: that of data, and more specifically, that of video combined with data. To put it simply, there are semantic analysis tools, based on AI, capable of ‘understanding’ the content of an article. This same tool can then decide to insert, in the middle of the article, an editorial video with appropriate content. For example, an article exploring the richness of American culture could be enriched by a video devoted to the landscapes of the Rockies. This video then becomes a ‘showcase’ for an advertisement, for example for a tour operator offering holidays in the United States. Rather than spending a fortune on the production of short-lived videos, this tool enables the media site to choose from a catalogue of existing videos that are tailored to users’ expectations. This means they have the best possible argument to convince an advertiser: space for their video campaigns.


This semantic analysis technology, currently used by certain media groups, represents a real opportunity to enable news websites to offer an environment in line with advertisers’ expectations. AI, which is often presented as a danger for these media, can become their ally, enabling them to make better use of their content and enrich it in a relevant way. It must therefore be part of the solutions implemented to support the financing of information, and the future of independent journalism.