The Finish Line in the Race to the Bottom

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 8.29.14 AMLast night, I was doing some analysis of a premium publisher’s site. I encountered RPM optimization in all its glory. And it made me sad and sick.

The malvertising at left attempts to:

  • Hijack browser settings
  • Encourage installation of a malware browser extension

The publisher’s ads.txt file indicated only two authorized sellers of inventory, one well-known and generally trusted.

So how did this obvious lousy ad get on the site? Did one of the authorized sellers resell inventory that ended up on some sketchy ad network? If so, is the publisher aware of it?

Who was using the “turn and cough” method of vetting advertisers, if any vetting was done at all?

Why run 50+ tracking pixels if they can’t even help keep stuff like this off the site? And when you see ads like this, you wonder exactly what the pixels are doing (I didn’t even recognize all the pixels that Ghostery showed me.)

Takeaway: This is what eking out every penny of RPM from your inventory looks like. This is optimization. This is how winning in the race to the bottom looks from the publisher side. This is what “platforms” are doing to our premium publishers. This is ad tech.

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1 Response to The Finish Line in the Race to the Bottom

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