After months of talks, research and number-crunching, national newspaper initiative Project Rio (formerly Project Juno) has hit a major stumbling block. The recommendation was that, for newsbrands to combat declining print revenues and survive in the new digital landscape, they must put aside their differences, pool resources and offer a combined audience product for advertisers.

Project Rio saw the six major publishers sit down to collectively discuss a plan of action. This month, however, DMG Media, publisher of the Daily Mail and Metro, pulled out of the initiative to focus on relieving its own commercial pressures. It has been reported that DMG felt legal costs and obstacles were too high, and there was little change in persuading regulators at the CMA.

With one of the UK’s biggest publishers pulling out, the future of the project was put into doubt. However, Project Rio has confirmed that the remaining parties are all committed to finding a solution, and the mission remains the same.

At first glance, Rio appears to be an initiative put in place to benefit the publishers, creating a new revenue stream to offset declining print revenues. However, the project’s aim is wider than that. Publishers are looking to force a reappraisal of newsbrands. Rio argues that newpapers’ audiences and the developments in advertising products will create opportunities that will rival the digital duopoly that is Facebook and Google.

Newsbrands offer some of the highest quality content available and have an abundance of data and audience insight that they are not taking full advantage of. For newsbrands to thrive in the digital landscape, they must work towards a fully-aggregated, data-driven, audience-based advertising solution that offers easy access to the agenda-setting content.

Even with DMG pulling out, Project Rio is scheduled to launch this autumn. The project will then open for trading in January 2018 to coincide with the launch of PAMCo’s Audience Measurement for Publishers survey, the new audience measurement service to supersede NRS.

If successful, print will not only have scale of audience, but scale of quality and will be able to offer a much-needed audience-based, data-driven advertising solution.