Tuesday 11th December 2018

New report finds news websites load significantly more third-party content than other websites

According to the report, news publishers set eight times as many third-party cookies as other popular websites. It will create yet more concern among publishers about how best to obtain consent from users to serve personalized advertisements.
Jason Smith
by on 20th May 2018

News websites load significantly more third-party content and place more third-party cookies than other websites, according to a new report by the Reuters Institute.

The presence of third-party content on a website, e.g. some social sharing buttons, video embeds, etc., helps facilitate the collection of users’ data. The data collected is often shared between services to help advertisers serve personalized advertisements tailored to their users’ browsing histories and other data.

The report analyzed the presence of third-party content and cookies from news websites in seven EU countries and it found that news websites load four times as much third-party content, and set eight times as many third-party cookies, as other popular websites.

It also found that 95 percent of news websites across the countries analyzed host third-party content, while 90 percent set at least one third-party cookie.

The UK is the worst offending country overall. On average, its news websites load content from over 50 third-party domains.

The amount of third-party content loaded, or cookies set, also varies significantly dependent on the funding model of the website.

For example, publicly funded news websites like the BBC load less third-party content than news websites that rely primarily on advertising as a business model. Subscription news websites also load less third-party content than their counterpart websites that are more heavily reliant on advertising.

The report also states that Google serves third-party content on 87 percent of all the pages analyzed, including pages on popular websites and news website.

Facebook is the second biggest contributor of third-party content overall (40 percent), while Amazon (17 percent) and Twitter (15 percent) are third and fourth.

The amount of third-party content Amazon serves may increase over time, particularly as it has recently announced it is trialing an ad network to rival Google’s Display Network.

Across all websites, the top 10 most popular providers of third-party content are all US-based tech organizations.

The advantage for tech organizations in creating shareable third-party content is predominantly found in its ability to track user behaviour.

While an organization that hosts content from third-party websites like YouTube may simply view it as sharing information with its users, the underlying benefit for tech organizations is found in the user requesting its content and the information the request delivers to the organization about that user’s interests.

The GDPR will come into force on 25th May and publishers are rightly concerned about the potential ramifications.

While trade bodies representing news organizations appear to view GDPR as a step in the right direction, many are frustrated by Google’s decision to place the burden for obtaining consent from users to serve personalized advertisements onto publishers.

Moreover, publishers are also concerned about how best to obtain consent, particularly as Google, which maintains one of the world’s largest ad networks, hasn’t provided any indication it plans to sign-up to an industry-wide framework for obtaining consent from users.