How publishers are applying ads.txt beyond its original purpose

Publishers are finding that ads.txt has several indirect applications beyond combating domain spoofing and unauthorized reselling. Publishers are also using these Interactive Advertising Bureau-backed text files to organize inventory reports they share with advertisers, drive programmatic direct deals and shop for vendors. The benefits that publishers get from this simple tool are expanding as publishers, buyers and vendors increasingly adopt it.

Here are the secondary ways that publishers are using ads.txt.

Organizing reports
Like a national currency, ads.txt gets its value from people’s belief in it. Because ad buyers, publishers and vendors all accept the premise of ads.txt, it helps standardize how inventory reports are compared between these companies.

Without a centralized list of authorized sellers, it is more difficult for publishers and buyers to come to an agreement over which platforms are authorized to sell the publishers’ inventory. Having authorized vendors verified in an ads.txt file gives everyone involved in the transaction a good starting point on where to start looking for discrepancies when buyers and publishers come up with different impression counts in their inventory reports, said David Pond, director of programmatic at Vox Media.

Driving programmatic direct
Putting the spotlight on domain spoofing incentivizes advertisers to move their dollars from the open market to programmatic direct where they can set up deals directly with publishers. In 2017, programmatic direct accounted for 56 percent of total programmatic spend in the U.S., up from 53 percent in 2016, according to eMarketer.

The New York Times, in particular, benefited from this trend as its programmatic direct revenue doubled in the third quarter of 2017 over the previous quarter. The buzz around ads.txt helped boost the Times’ programmatic direct business, said Sara Badler, director of programmatic advertising at the Times.

Vendor shopping
Before ads.txt existed, publishers had less publicly available information at their fingertips to verify the claims of vendor salespeople. If a supply-side platform rep said it worked with a host of premium sites, the publisher either had to take the rep at their word or reach out to the other publishers individually to see if the claims were true.

But with ads.txt, if a SSP claims to work with a publisher like HuffPost, this claim can be fact-checked in seconds by visiting to see if the SSP is listed there. Since ads.txt categorizes vendors as either “direct” or “reseller,” publishers can also get a better sense of which vendors rely on arbitrage.

“Ads.txt is an amazing evaluation tool for a potential new partner,” said Emry Downinghall, vp of advertising at education site Chegg. “It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it’s a great start.”

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