Good Idea, But Ads.txt Isn't Exactly Crushing It -- Yet!

When the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Tech Lab introduced ads.txt earlier this year, it was yet another noble attempt at industry self-regulation of untoward programmatic advertising practices. The idea was that, by incorporating a thin piece of ads.txt code, publishers could weed out third parties that arbitrage their ad inventory without their permission -- or, even worse, drive advertising impressions to “spoof domains.”

A good idea for sure, but one that requires compliance and scaled adoption for it to be meaningful. Several months into the program, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

An in-depth analysis of publisher adoption of ads.txt by programmatic data platform Pixalate finds the take rate so far is, well, meh!

Pixalate examined more than 7 million domains, and found that through Sept. 18, just 3,523 -- or 0.05% -- have incorporated ads.text.

On the plus side, Pixalate found higher -- but still relatively small -- levels of penetration among top domains: 3.8% of the top 5,000 Alexa-ranked domains have adopted it.

Ranked via Pixalate’s proprietary view of the top 5,000 domains based on volume, adoption is even better: 8.74%.

“A lot of clients have been asking about ads.txt, so we did some digging to see the adoption rates,” Pixalate Marketing Manager and former MediaPost reporter Tyler Loechner told us, adding, “Just trying to present the data as neutral given the interest we've seen in it.”

Loechner said his gut is there are two possible angles to this story so far:

One: “Implementation has been slow, which is noteworthy given that the initiative is completely reliant on adoption. Yes, it's obviously going to take time for ‘widespread’ adoption.”

Two: “This one is purely a hunch… but a lot of the sites that have adopted ads.txt are news sites. I wonder if all the ‘fake news’ and brand safety chatter, specifically around news organizations, sparked faster uptake across that industry. Just a thought.”

Good thoughts. What do you think? Post comments below, or let me know at, and we’ll follow up on it.
5 comments about "Good Idea, But Ads.txt Isn't Exactly Crushing It -- Yet!".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, September 25, 2017 at 9:55 a.m.

    I believe should be on the list of ads.txt adopters. What about WSJ? It would be a surprise (to me at least) if they haven't gotten around to implementing this. Since it is a way to protect and perhaps enhance the value of assets (ads and ad revnue as a result,) it should be a natural for the major news sites to use this. It is another attribute that would set them apart from sites working more on the margins of the industry.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., September 25, 2017 at 10:20 a.m.

    @Henry Blaufox: I believe Pixalate will publish a deeper, or complete list. We'll update our story with a link to it as soon as they do. -- Joe

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., September 25, 2017 at 2:38 p.m.

    Here's the link for anyone who want to see it:

  4. Ben Kneen from Ad Ops Insider, September 27, 2017 at 9:49 a.m.

    I think this is quite a misleading stat - perhaps there are 7 million websites online, but how many of those sell ads and of those, how many do buyers care about?  I would submit there are only thousands in that set - not millions - and it's the adoption among that set that matters.  All the tiny ad sense hobbyists out there aren't going to need an ads.txt file.  

    I ran my own analysis of ads.txt adoption and found the adoption among the largest publishers is more like 13%:

  5. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc. replied, September 27, 2017 at 9:59 a.m.

    Which stat? There are several referenced in the story. Pixalate's analysis also shows penetration is much higher among "top" sites.

    Top, of course is in the eye of the beholder, whether it is Pixalate, Alexa or AdOpsInsider.

    Ultimately, it is up to users and advertisers to decide what sites are tops with them, and as long-tail principles prove, there's a broad marketplace out there that goes beyond the Fortune 500, or the top 500 publishers.

    That said, up to readers to decide what is meaningful ads.txt penetration among "top" publishers too. We're just reporting what the study found. Happy to share more info when it becomes available.

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