Now in the News: A NH Newspaper Publisher Is Arrested And Charged With Running Illegal Political Ads

August 26, 2022

How Digital News Publishers Will Compete For Political Ad Dollars In This Year’s U.S. Midterm Elections

The U.S. midterm elections this November are expected to draw a historic amount of political advertising spend — most of it is projected to go to TV and video streaming services. So where does that leave digital news outlets?

While some news publishers have policies against accepting political ads, others count on an election season for a boost in ad revenue. This year’s midterms are expected to surpass $9 billion across broadcast, cable, streaming and digital platforms, according to projections by political ad tracking firm AdImpact — the most spent in a midterm election year (political ad spend hit over $3.9 billion in 2018).

The biggest pieces of the pie appear to be going to local broadcast TV stations, and nearly half of digital ad dollars are projected to be spent on connected TV.

While political advertising is growing in record amounts this year, general advertising spend appears to be slowing down due to the downturn in the economy. And only a few publishers can access political advertising to boost their overall ad revenue.

“It’s really a distinct group of news publishers that are going to be able to activate political,” said one marketing and sales executive who has worked at major digital news publishers. And because the surge of spending is mostly happening in the broadcast and streaming space, political advertising “may buoy some” in the third and fourth quarters this year, “but it will not buoy digital publishing altogether,” they added.

A NH Newspaper Publisher Is Arrested And Charged With Running Illegal Political Ads

In a bizarre case that raises important First Amendment issues, a New Hampshire newspaper owner has been arrested and charged with publishing political ads that the state attorney general’s office claims failed to comply with disclosure laws.

According to Nancy West of InDepthNH, the ads failed to include the words “Political Advertisement,” which is a violation of state law. The publisher, Debra Paul of the Londonderry Times, faces six misdemeanor counts. If she’s found guilty, she could be fined $2,000 or even sentenced to prison for a year. “I would like to think the attorney general’s office has more important matters to deal with than to send press releases out on misdemeanors such as this,” Paul said, according to West. “With multiple unsolved homicides over the past year, this seems a bit absurd.”

According to a statement issued by the office of Attorney General John Formella, the charges involve incidents dating back as far as 2019:

Ms. Paul, publisher of the Londonderry Times newspaper, was previously investigated and warned against such conduct on two prior occasions by the Attorney General’s Office Election Law Unit. Those instances ended with formal letters being issued to her in 2019 and 2021. A ‘final warning’ letter issued by the Election Law Unit in September of 2021 warned Ms. Paul that all political advertising must be properly labeled as such in her publication.

Bill To Force Google And Facebook To Pay For News Content Wends Its Way Toward Center Stage

Legislation to bring the big tech platform companies to the table and negotiate compensation for news stories they use has been redrafted and will be considered by Congress over the next six weeks.

The latest version of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) was released Monday evening. The 35-page bill is headed for committee markup revisions in early September and then likely will be voted on by both the House and Senate.

If successful, the legislation could infuse billions of dollars from Google and Facebook to pay journalists over its eightyear duration. A similar law in Australia – population 27 million – has so far brought news organizations there $140 million in new revenue.

75% Of Large Subscription Publishers Offer Discounted Trials

The majority of large publishers with digital subscription products are currently offering discounted trials to help drive new subscriber acquisition. Toolkits examined the 100 most popular subscription sites among US audiences and found that 75% offered either discounted or free trials to new subscribers in June.

Among the 75 subscription publishers offering discounted trials:

• The vast majority offered paid trials (93.3%), while 6.6% made trials available for free.

• 76% promoted a single term or offer only.

• 66% offered relatively long trial periods of 3 months or more.

• Average trial length for primary trial offers came in at 7 months (28 weeks). Among the 25 subscription publishers that did not offer discounted trials:

• Most provided greater flexibility around payment, with 71% offering at least two subscription terms. (Only 24% of publishers offering discounted trials presented more than one term or offer.)

• Over half were in the “Politics” category in terms of their content focus.