3 Technologies That Are Threatening the Publishing Industry

Written on
Jan 22, 2016 
Richard Murphy  |

We’re consuming more online content than ever. But these three technologies are threatening digital publishers’ abilities to provide informative, entertaining content to readers:

1. Ad Blockers

I recently installed a trial ad blocker on my phone…Perhaps that’s a dangerous statement for somebody who certifies ad tech companies and publishers for impression delivery, but I’m not alone. According to Reuters, 47 percent of U.S. Internet users use ad-blockers, and an Adobe report found ad blocking grew 41 percent worldwide in the past year.

There was a time when mobile looked like it might save the publishing industry. Mobile ad blockers were cumbersome and ineffective, but that changed when Apple announced its new iOS9 that would grant users access to an ad-free experience. Now, one company is targeting mobile carriers to block ads before they even reach smartphones. Ad blocking, Adobe reckons, will cost companies $21.8 billion in 2015.

To earn this money back, we need to improve user experience. Showing everybody the same banner will only drive users faster toward ad blockers. Delivering relevant, timely ads may come at a premium, but it’s worth it.

Publishers can also fight technology with technology. For instance, PageFair allows publishers to measure how many visitors use ad-blocking software and estimate lost revenues, while Sourcepoint promises to restore ads users have blocked.

I didn’t renew when my ad-blocker trial ended, but I did get to experience ad-free browsing. There were no screen takeovers, no irrelevant banners, and faster page load times. It’s easy to see why consumers are flocking to ad blockers, and we need to respond as an industry.

2. Invalid Traffic

A second major challenge comes from traffic fraud. At a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conference, one presenter asked, “How many hours a day do you spend thinking about fraud detection and prevention?” “Fraudsters,” he continued, “spend every hour of every day thinking about fraud opportunities.”

Gone are the days of subscribing to IAB’s spiders and bots list and calling it done. Non-human traffic (NHT) is a growing problem, and invalid traffic detection and prevention has become incredibly complicated, difficult, and expensive. The Media Rating Council (MRC) recently released new guidelines, dividing detection and filtration techniques into two categories: general and sophisticated.

General techniques involve identifying traffic with filtration executed through the application of lists or other parameter checks, while sophisticated techniques include vetting traffic through advanced analytics, multipoint corroboration, and significant human intervention.

What’s important, however, is that publishers incorporate invalid traffic detection and filtration into the digital fabric of their content platforms. If they don’t, publishers risk hemorrhaging advertisers.

3. Slow Adoption of Viewable Impressions Metric

The final challenge comes from advertisers, publishers, and ad technology platforms. We knew a small percentage of ads went unseen and accepted the risk due to low prices. But with studies now claiming roughly 50 percent of online ads are viewed, buyers are demanding change.

For this reason, the MRC and IAB now endorse viewable impressions. Viewable impressions must meet IAB requirements for served ad impressions, and at least half the ad must be viewed for a minimum of one second.

Trade magazine readers might think everybody flocked to adopt the metric, but most online advertising is still transacted on served impressions. Why is the industry so slow to change?

Part of the difficulty is that conflicting measurement technologies yield significant reporting variances. Some variance is inevitable, but we can close the gap by collectively adopting MRC’s viewable impressions guidelines. Until then, we have to accept the variance and know that a viewable impression is better than a served one.

For online publishing to remain viable, we need to beat fraudsters, offer a better user experience, and deliver more value for ad partners. Only then can we guarantee the Internet remains a forum for high-quality, freely available content.


Richard Murphy is a senior vice president at BPA Worldwide, a nonprofit assurance services provider that performs third-party media audits to verify audience data used in the buying and selling of advertising. Richard is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Information Systems Auditor; he leads the organization’s BPA Media and iCompli Technology Assurance divisions.

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