NYTD Spearheading Plans for Web Publishers Association

New York Times Digital (NYTD) honcho Martin Nisenholtz is among a group of big-name industry executives behind the launch of a new trade group to represent the interests of Web content creators, according to people familiar with the plans.

Sources say Nisenholtz is spearheading the launch of the trade group, which will be known as the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and will be officially announced within the next two weeks.

It is not clear how the work of the new Association will differ from that of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which now serves as an industry advocacy group for Web publishers.

While Nisenholtz’s NYTD is a member of the IAB, insiders say some of the bigger publishing houses aren’t too happy with the restructuring of the Bureau taking place since the hiring of chief executive officer Robin Webster.

One point of contention may be a potential new membership fee structure. With fewer members — the IAB has recently narrowed its focus by limiting its membership to publishers — and an ambitious agenda, the organization needs to collect more dough from each member. There’s even been talk within the organization of tying the membership fees to a percentage of revenues — a move which could potentially raise the hackles of the bigger publishers, such as New York Times Digital.

A spokesperson for Nisenholtz declined to discuss the objectives of the Association, saying it is “still too premature.” However, she was quick to insist the Online Publishers Association “will not be an alternative to the IAB.”

“Online publishers have a specific set of needs,” she said. “That is what the Association will be addressing.” The NYTD is expected to remain a member of the IAB and Nisenholtz would continue to work closely with the Bureau, according to the spokesperson.

Sources close to the Association say the OPA will act as a policy and advocacy group for content creators who do business on the Internet. “It will address things like advertising standards and the premium vs. free content discussion,” one source said.

Of course, those are the same issues that the newly-retooled IAB has been working to address. In the few months since Webster was named as organization’s first professional CEO, the IAB has changed its name and focus, issued new ad standards, and come up with standards for terms and conditions of online media purchases. On the agenda now are standards for rich media, a study of online advertising effectiveness, and additional terms and conditions that address questions of third-party ad serving.

Although many in the industry agree that such aggressive action is needed — especially as online advertising faces the challenge of a slowdown — making so many changes so quickly also carries the risk of making enemies.

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