Public Service Media Online, Advertising and the Third-Party User Data Business: A Trade versus Trust Dilemma?

Jannick Kirk Sørensen, Hilde van den Bulck

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


News and media web pages generate valuable consumer data, collected by third-party servers. Using longitudinal experiments, this article shows that third-party servers are active in 34 cases of European public service media (PSM) websites from 19 countries. This constitutes a pressing privacy problem in relation to GDPR and challenges the notion of PSM organizations as particularly trusted providers of media content. This has implications for their role and placement in the commercial media landscape as well as for their independency, but also for their survival in the future media landscape. Our analysis shows not only connections between the presence of advertisement and the number of third-party servers found but also a reflection of different types of European media systems. To provide a benchmark for our analysis, we also analysed 64 private media websites for the presence of third-party servers. The empirical results suggest a pressing need for discussions on whether and how PSM organizations can participate in the commercial web ecology of user data exchange and utilization, for example, for the purposes of user profiling, targeting and PSM performance measurement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConvergence. The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)421-447
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Public Service Media
  • privacy
  • trust
  • web privacy measurement
  • third-party sites
  • Media Policy
  • public service broadcasting
  • GDPR
  • General data protection regulation
  • user data
  • user tracking
  • public service media trust
  • public service media


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