European publishers urge European Commission to recognise importance of digital advertising in review of the ePrivacy Directive

With media independence a hot topic across Europe and around the world, European publishers today called on the Juncker Commission to ensure that future “ePrivacy” rules do not needlessly deprive them of a critical revenue stream as they manage the difficult transitional to digital. The publishers are concerned that the current review of the ePrivacy Directive (Directive 2002/58/EC, also known as the ‘Cookie Directive’), may lead to new constraints on low-risk data processing for advertising purposes, including rules that would in effect force them to provide content for free. Over 90 European publishers, brought together by 26 European national Interactive Advertising Bureaus (IABs), IAB Europe and leading European publisher associations EPC (European Publishers Council), NME (News Media Europe), EMMA (European Magazine Media Association) and ENPA (European Newspaper Publishers’ Association), co-signed a letter to Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Günther Oettinger highlighting their concerns.

The letter calls on the European Commission to recognise the critical role that interest-based advertising plays in the financing of online media. Media plurality, and ultimately functioning democracies, depend on media having diverse revenue streams. These must include advertising.

“European digital media and services overwhelmingly depend on data driven online advertising” said Townsend Feehan, CEO of IAB Europe “76% of all online media revenues and more than 50% of all mobile app revenues come from such advertising. Moreover, data driven interest-targeting of advertisements has been shown to increase the value and effectiveness of online advertising by more than 200% on average”.

“The Internet as we know it is advertising-funded. Advertising enables billions of users worldwide to access news, information, education, entertainment and other services online for free or at low cost. Consumers have grown accustomed to, and expect, quality content to be made available to them at no monetary cost. The new ePrivacy instrument must therefore not require the provision of a subscription-based alternative and it must be absolutely clear that online services and publishers continue to have full control over the terms and conditions under which users may access their offerings, including the condition that user data is lawfully processed to deliver interest-based advertising in full compliance with data protection laws.”

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council said “Staying in touch with the news is as important as ever for millions of European citizens and those of us lucky enough to enjoy life under a democracy often take our press freedom for granted. Yet it is that press freedom and the provision of 24/7 news, entertainment, sports, political enquiry and investigative journalism that underpins our democracy, much of which is funded by data-driven advertising to ensure the widest possible audience on the open web, free to the readers. Breaking news or in-depth investigative reports, sports coverage or feature writing is not just popular to read and share across social media, but expensive and risky to produce. Data-driven, interest based advertising is highly effective and therefore the most valuable form to those press publishers who rely on advertising to support the production of professional, fact-based journalism. European regulators need to make the link between what European citizens value and how it is funded and ensure that legislation doesn’t cut off indispensable revenues”.

The group also asks the Commission to follow its own Better Regulation Agenda and encourage effective self- and co-regulatory alternatives to legislation. The online advertising ecosystem has already set up the flexible and adaptive multi-stakeholder OBA Self-Regulatory Programme to provide users with transparency, choice and control over targeted online ads.

The letter can be accessed here.

For further information contact:

Pierre Dagard 
EU & European Affairs Manager, EMMA

+32 2 536 06 05

Townsend Feehan 
CEO, IAB Europe


The European Magazine Media Association, is the unique and complete representation of Europe’s magazine media, which is today enjoyed by millions of consumers on various platforms, encompassing both paper and digital formats.

The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) is the largest representative body of newspaper publishers across Europe. ENPA advocates for 14 national associations across 14 European countries, and is a principal interlocutor to the EU institutions and a key driver of media policy debates in the European Union.