What Ads.txt Files Tell Marketers About Amazon, Facebook, Other Companies

Ads.txt files -- text files that help create an encrypted way to transact media programmatically -- are filled with all sorts of data.

The files list authorized digital sellers of programmatic ad inventory, a strategy spearheaded by Google and IAB Tech Lab. They also list the percentage of publishers using programmatic, and reveal direct and indirect deals as well as a host of other information such as the market share of Amazon and Facebook.

“I've been studying the ads.txt files for a while now,” Automatad Inbound Marketer Rasheed Ahamed wrote in an email to Digital News Daily. “After some experiments and analysis, I realized we could get more out of these files.”

Digging into the data, Ahamed and coworkers eliminated a variety of sites from the analysis, including “walled gardens,” and non-brand safe content sites, .gov, .edu, and brand sites. From the total of 2,000 sites, about 1,468 sites were left to crawl and study. The ads.txt files were crawled at the beginning of 2019, so adoption rates today might differ.



The U.S. market took the lead in programmatic advertising in 2018. Zenith estimates that 83% of all digital media in the U.S. were traded programmatically last year.  

Of the 1468 publishers crawled by Automatad’s technology, 725 have the ads.txt files on their servers.

Amazon has captured 28% of the top publishers, and more than half of them are through a reseller relationship. Amazon partners with more than 200 publishers, according to Automatad, which is close to the native advertising company Taboola.

Data from the ads.txt files also told Ahamed that about 140 domains use the Facebook Audience Network, and most connect directly, not through a reseller. That means Facebook has access to roughly 20% of the programmatic supply, which is better than about 80% of the ad exchanges in the top publishers.

“Facebook isn’t just taking a cut (from digital advertising) with its own properties,” Ahamed wrote in a post. "It is in the supply side of the open internet."

Some 34.54% of the ads.txt lines used by the top publishers are for direct partners, and 66.34% of the lines in the files belong to resellers. According to the analysis of ads.txt files, 99% of the publishers have a direct relationship with at least any one of the ad exchanges. More than 10% of the publishers have only direct relationships and no resellers listed in their files.

The data also shows that 8% of the ad exchanges take up to some 85% of the lines in ads.txt files, and about 15% go to 92% of the ad exchanges.

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