Blog Post

Guardian Backs Out Of Phorm, Ponders Overseas Expansion

Guardian.co.uk is pulling a U-turn on its supposed intention to serve ads from controversial behavioural ad network Phorm. The paper had reportedly planned to serve targeted ads to BT (NYSE: BT), TalkTalk and Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) customers, whose browsing habits will be sold to Phorm, profiled and delivered via partner content publishers, including itself, FT.com and iVillage plus ad nets from Universal McCann, MGM OMD and Unanimis.

But now, a change of heart. Advertising manager Simon Kilby (via Reg): “It is true that we have had conversations with them regarding their services but we have concluded at this time that we do not want to be part of the network. Our decision was in no small part down to the conversations we had internally about how this product sits with the values of our company. I hope you appreciate that the quality of the Guardian’s editorial is funded by our advertising sales operation and it is our duty to keep abreast of all developments in this sector. In this instance, however, I agree with you that this is not something that we should be partnering.”

Phorm could increase the value of publishers’ ad blocks, but it would not necessarily have sat so well with Guardian News & Media’s brand image. The Observer supports Amnesty International’s Irrepressible.info anti-censorship campaign, for example – while Phorm can hardly be considered an instrument of digital state repression and, so far, the Foundation for Information Policy Research think-tank is the most significant organisation to voice opposition, the growing suspicion from individual advocates and customers may dissuade some partners.

Meanwhile, from MediaWeek: “While the group’s immediate focus is to expand Guardianamerica.com, (CEO Carlyn) McCall said it is already examining the launch of online portals in other overseas markets. However, she would not be drawn on details, such as the planned territories.”