Tribune’s Nicole Goksel: Ads.txt won’t solve ad fraud

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Publishers were fast to adopt the ads.txt initiative from the Interactive Advertising Bureau but the demand hasn’t matched up. And according to Nicole Goksel, the senior director of digital revenue operations at Tribune Media, it needs a lot more work.

“Publishers adopted ads.txt fast and furious last year because they were afraid of losing in Q4 last year. The thing is it’s super manual. It’s ripe for human error,” said Goksel at the recent Digiday Programmatic Media Summit held in Scottsdale, Arizona from November 14-16. “The current version of ads.text won’t solve our problems. It’s easy for me to put a file at the root of my domain. But getting insider analysis on what’s going on is not easy. There’s been a couple publishers who have been successful to figure out what’s going on with fraud, but most publishers don’t have the bandwidth, time or knowledge to actually dig into this. The publishers are more interested in seeing this succeeding but from the demand side, they’re not there yet.”

In our latest episode, Goksel discusses how ad fraud remains hard to solve, how the news category is still suffering and more. Edited highlights below:

There’s no visibility into the demands buyers.
“For a publisher, the biggest thing is to get competition into the wrapper and getting in as many partners as possible to keep those CPMs high. There are a lot of algorithms, machine learnings and there are decision making happening that we are not understanding or aware of and that’s impacting the demand and the revenue we’re seeing across the board from DSPs. If you pick up the phone and ask what’s happening, there’s no answer. So there’s very little transparency. People are also creating [filters] based on your comScore numbers. You don’t know what people’s secret sauce is for buying inventory.”

Lack of internal understanding about technology hurts.
“It takes a lot of effort to onboard partners and maintain relationships. I’ve tasked my team with doing a better job with talking to SSPs about performance and optimization because the technology is constantly changing. Because there are a lot of SSPs out there, getting the support and attention from them is often challenging. They’re not always doing the optimization that they should be doing. Publishers use a lot of consultation and service from the outside. There’s not a lot of technological support internally. Without understanding what’s going on, they put themselves in a weakened position.”

News doesn’t get high revenue.
“The demand could be impacted by viewability or the kind of content that you’re creating. If something is flagged as hard news, then you will be in a category that gets less revenue. The news category is suffering from the CPM perspective because there are blocks happening. People are trying avoid topics like politics. Local news is where people are going for their content. There is a value proposition but we need to to do a better job at explaining what that is from a programmatic perspective. That’s where some of the local consortiums that exist could help us.”

Can’t continue to put off privacy and consent measures.
“We created a task force internally to evaluate what we want to do with GDPR coming. Since we’re local news, we knew that only one percent of our traffic was coming from the European Union. So it was a no-brainer to cut off that traffic. That’s not the right long-term strategy, especially with the privacy laws in California coming in 2020. Getting consent is something we need to spend some more time on. It goes back to using technology and using it correctly. If you put the right resources and people towards that initiative it could be an opportunity. But if we use third-party vendors, the chances of failing are higher. Sometimes, we don’t have the time, resources or budget to do it ourselves. But the knowledge of how this works is lacking and we’re not walking, we’re crawling, because we’re relying on others to do the hard work for us.”

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