Publishers At Odds Over SPAC; Ad Fraud Is Not A Plague

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The SPAC Attack

Online publishers are popular takeover targets for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), which promise a route to IPO without the typical pre-IPO roadshow – the well-known brand merges with an already-public shell company. First-party data and ad tech companies have boomed on the market, so it makes sense. But publishers must balance the opportunity to potentially earn a huge injection of cash and pay out equity holders, with Wall Street’s skepticism of SPACs in general. BuzzFeed has already agreed to a SPAC listing, and CEO Jonah Peretti said the company will be an active acquirer of other digital media companies. Vice Media’s SPAC merger plan stalled, though it’s still looking for a partner, while Vox Media wasn’t persuaded by any SPAC offers, CNBC reports. Penske Media, which operates magazine titles including Variety and Rolling Stone, was approached by eight SPACs but never entertained a deal, according to a spokesperson. “​​We believe it is a short-term game to provide liquidity for opportunistic/greedy investors or fledgling companies who cannot get public through a traditional IPO process.”

Broken Clocks

The digital advertising industry, programmatic in particular, faces constant criticism that it is replete with fraud, bot traffic and junk inventory, such that it truly has little to no impact on the business. The typical boogeyman is retargeting, which claims credit when customers might have purchased anyways. But the specter of a digital media landscape overrun by fraud and never-seen ad units is hard to conjure nowadays, writes Mobile Dev Memo. At some point, the claims that programmatic or Facebook are Ponzi schemes or emperors without clothes are shown to be true or not. Is practically every small business in the country wasting its money, time after time, on Facebook and Google? Have brand marketing orgs, even those with platoons of data scientists analyzing ad efficacy, all been bamboozled? “It seems impossible to defend the position that digital advertising spend is wholly or even substantially subject to fraud across delivery or reporting. Even while acknowledging that fraud of course does exist in the ecosystem.”

Fussbudgets

Google’s concept of a “Privacy Budget,” a method to block user-level identification by rationing the data available to digital media and marketing companies, has gained traction, even with non-advertising companies like Zoom and Netflix. But the industry is worried about the procession of “half-cooked proposals” from Google’s Privacy Sandbox and whether the Privacy Budget will eventually work or will be dismembered by observers before it can (à la FLoC or FLEDGE), Digiday reports. Google’s dilemma is that by involving the industry early on and airing new technologies in the W3C, it’s presenting products before they’re ready for market and getting dinged for … not being ready for market. If implemented today, the Privacy Budget idea would cripple normal site activity, like remembering logged-in users. Restaurants don’t let customers see into the kitchen, because many popular dishes aren’t appetizing until they’re finished and on the plate. Likewise, Google Chrome’s focus on transparency might mean nothing gets cooked. 

But Wait, There’s More!  

Nielsen’s loss of National TV ratings accreditation raises questions about the MRC’s relevance. [Ad Age

China rolled out tighter online gaming restrictions for kids and teenagers. [NYT]

Apple and Google face new regulatory hurdles in Asia Pacific. [CNN]

FuboTV is launching free-to-play games and a FanView live stats feature. [release]

Google’s John Mueller explains how mobile interstitials impact search ranking. [SEJ]

Social commerce and product reviews app Flip raises $28M. [TechCrunch]

Facebook creative, biz marketing chief is the latest to leave the company. [Adweek]

You’re Hired

Smartly.io hired Ryan Jamboretz as chief strategy officer. [release]

Integral Ad Science makes a new hire and promotion for its business in Australia and New Zealand. [release

Amy Tunick Joins National CineMedia (NCM) as its first-ever CMO. [release]

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