An Ad-Tech Doubter

As a publishing veteran, Jim Spanfeller takes a skeptical view of ad tech. It’s not that the former Forbes.com CEO doesn’t think technology is important to modern media companies — he does — it’s just that he sees too much attention, energy and venture capital devoted to systems that commoditize ad inventory.

Speaking at the Digiday Publishing Summit in West Palm Beach, Fla., the publisher of The Daily Meal laid out his case that the ad tech era is coming to a close, as venture capitalists realize the “myopia with demand fulfillment” in ad tech isn’t that great for returns. And it’s unclear how all this activity has improved the fortunes of marketers and publishers.

“We’re seeing lots and lots of money being sucked out by the middlemen,” he said.

There are other issues. Spanfeller points out the problems with online data accuracy. After all, he wonders, why do data providers sell 25 million auto intenders segments that are presumed to buy a car within three months when well less than half that number buy cars each year? What’s more, the “ugly tonnage” of online media today means that prices continue to decline. And systems that are notionally an improvement over the black box world of the ad network are themselves rather opaque.

“All of this money has flowed into ad tech but not a lot of profits have been generated out of it,” Spanfeller noted.

See the full video of Spanfeller’s presentation below.

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