Garbage Out, Garbage In: Can Publishing Poor Quality News Result in More Ad Fraud?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 6, 2017
These days, political headlines are as juicy as gossip mag exclusives. Whether it’s news about President Trump’s latest tweet or social media’s role in Russia’s interference in the election, political headlines continue to pique readers’ interest and drive clicks.

Of course, news sites should report on these issues, but some publishers are sacrificing editorial quality in an effort to capitalize on digital viewing trends. For example, in a rush to get news out quickly, some publishers are releasing stories without properly vetting them.

Pushing out rapid-fire, clickbait-type headlines may help sites earn short-term gains, but in the end, quality content should reign supreme. Publishers must be mindful of how content quality affects the type of audience they draw — and, in turn, their advertising program. Reputable organizations won’t want their brand name potentially tarnished by being served alongside inaccurate or poorly written content.



It’s a challenging time for publishers, as many struggle to attract an audience and to compete with giants like Facebook and Google. Most have some sort of paid traffic strategy in place, and that’s OK, but the sites that maximize short-term gains by pushing “news” out in a frenzy tend to invest in paid traffic big time, and not always via reputable sources. These sites are more interested in driving page views than building a long-term, loyal audience organically.

Another risk for sites that push out clickbait is traffic exchanges, in which a publisher links to a site in exchange for a link-back or pays every time someone clicks a link to their content. These exchanges are prime targets for fraudsters.

Another consideration some publishers overlook: the ways in which site quality relates to fraudulent traffic. Advertisers will lose an estimated $19 billion to fraudulent activities in 2018, and that figure will continue to rise, according to recent findings from Juniper Research.

Regardless of how a publisher is driving traffic, it has to take steps to recognize and protect itself from fraud. Every publisher must:

1.     Recognize that fighting ad fraud is an ongoing battle. There is no simple solution. Criminals are continually working to develop new tactics that outsmart industry tools. Since advertisers will jump ship if a publisher’s traffic is not clean, publishers have to create and budget for an ongoing traffic monitoring strategy and never let their guard down.

2.     Choose the right partners. Publishers must do their due diligence when paying for traffic. They should ask the potential partner about the steps it takes to monitor and protect the traffic it is selling. How does it keep its traffic clean?

If the vendor doesn’t have a traffic filtration system in place, find another partner. If it does, publishers should research that system to be sure they are comfortable with it. Initiatives like ads.txt and the TAG Payment ID system are a step in the right direction to a safer marketplace.

3.     Take matters into your own hands. Publishers should consider investing in their own traffic filtration systems, especially if they are buying traffic from multiple sources, so they can compare their vendor’s findings with their own metrics.

If marketers have poor campaign results because they are serving ads to bots, for example, it is the publisher that will suffer, not its traffic partner.

Sites must remember they are playing a long-game and not sacrifice quality or accuracy for a short-term traffic spike. Publishers have to maintain their readers’ trust, certainly, but they can’t afford to lose advertisers’ trust, either.

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