But what does “premium” actually mean? It can be a slippery term, but in DCN CEO Jason Kint’s view, the notion of what makes something premium is “based on the trust of consumers and advertisers.”
“All of our members have direct, trusted relationships with both consumers and advertisers, so it’s core to their businesses,” Kint told AdExchanger. “Premium gets thrown around way too often. I know trust [and] there is an obvious connection here to ad blocking, too.”
One would be remiss in not pointing out, however, that DCN is an interested party, as it represents the premium publisher community. In addition to The New York Times, DCN members include The Onion, The Washington Post, AP, Financial Times, Forbes, Gannett, Meredith, Atlantic Media, Business Insider, News Corp. and National Geographic.
It’s been nearly a year since the ANA study was completed and there has been some action taken, namely the the formation of the Trustworthy Accountability Group, a fraud-fighting industrywide coalition comprised of the ANA, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
But it’s also been a year of, as Zimbalist put it, “talk, talk, talk” – and any progress the industry has made in the fight against fraud is unlikely to have a material impact on how much money will be funneled into the pockets of criminals next year.
According to Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA, it’s likely that bot fraud will take an even larger bite out of ad budgets in 2016.
There’s a practical reason for that, Liodice said, namely the fact that the ANA publicly announced when it would be conducting its study, thereby unintentionally alerting the bad actors to cut down on the fraud for the length of the study – which they did – meaning that the $6.3 billion number is probably a little low.
The ANA is in the process of running a second, this time more stealthy, study with White Ops, the results of which Liodice said should be ready by the end of the year. Liodice also said that he expects that oft-cited $6.3 billion number to “trend down” in the longer term.
“It’s striking that almost a year after the original study that the ANA did, there is not a smidgen less [fraud] and maybe there’s even more coming up,” Zimbalist said. “That should be a real call to arms for all of us. What’s taking so long for people to wake up to this?”
Part of the issue is that it’s really hard to stay on top of fraud. It’s not a “one and done,” said Jason Fairchild, CRO and co-founder of OpenX, which he claims rejects between 35% and 45% of traffic outright as part of its internal quality controls.
"Bad actors are everywhere,” Fairchild said. “It's an arms race and it requires constant investment to stay ahead of them."
If publishers want to keep the lights on, they’ve got to operate well-lit environments – and that takes constant vigilance and an acute awareness of where they’re sourcing their traffic from.
The Gray Lady isn’t inherently premium – that takes work, Zimbalist said.
“You can’t rest on your laurels,” he said. “Trust is earned every single day, one transaction at a time. Premium brands are premium brands because they do all this – they monitor. [It’s] an ongoing thing.”
But The New York Times has the resources and the wherewithal to stay continually on the lookout for fraud. What about small and mid-size publishers?
They’re in a bit of a pickle.
Small publishers generally can’t justify their own dedicated sales team, which leads them to outsource that function to agents who can help sell their inventory for them in return for a piece of the action, Kint said. These days, that means working with one – and in most cases, way more than one – of the many ad vendor companies that show up on your average Ghostery scan.
Technology “provides scale, which greatly helps small publishers,” but the problem arises “when those intermediaries are able to go beyond the inventory itself and pool the cookies/data across sites, which leads to the many issues in the ecosystem,” Kint said.
“Buying direct isn’t the requirement to solving this,” he said. “It’s just the low-hanging fruit to eliminate the shenanigans.”