Incorrect Keyword Blocking Costs U.S. Publishers $2.8 Billion

U.S. online news publishers lost $2.8 billion in revenue in 2019, due to incorrect blocking of safe content, according to a report from cybersecurity company CHEQ and the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore.

That is equivalent to $1 in every $4 of programmatic ad revenue lost to the incorrect flagging of publishers’ most-read online content on brand-safety grounds.

The numbers are based on the the estimated $12 billion spent annually on online U.S. news advertising.

The study, called "The Economic Cost of Keyword Blacklists for Online Publishers," found that 80% of ads served to premium publishers are subject to keyword blacklists. Blacklists are designed by ad verification providers to prevent a brand’s advertising from appearing next to news content that may be considered offensive.



However, the study found this results in some publishers’ most popular content not getting monetized.

While The New York Times recently announced its digital ad revenues surpassed print, only nine of every 100 most-read news articles in 2019 were considered brand safe by keywords blacklists, according to the study.

For example, a story about ex-British royal Meghan Markle noted  she is a descendant of plantation slaves. The story got marked with the keyword “slavery" and was blocked from ad revenue.

"Blacklists are preventing the media industry from monetizing premium content, ultimately threatening the future of news,” stated CHEQ founder-CEO Guy Tytunovich.

He continued: “Brands are being denied the chance to appear on top news sites, which consistently deliver the most engaged online audiences. The industry needs to commit to moving away from the decades-old technology of keywords and turn to a more sophisticated and fairer strategy.”

“Disney Plus” was the most-searched phrase on Google in the U.S. in 2019. However, some of the most-read stories about the new platform could not be monetized. Words like “attack” used in reference to "Star Wars" content prevented ads from being served.

The study also shows that while an estimated 40% of global premium media inventory is brand-safe (neutral or uncontroversial content), 57% of brand-safe content is incorrectly blocked by blacklists failing to understand the context of certain words, such as “kill," "dead,” “shoot” and “‘injury.”

LGBTQ news publishers included in the study saw 73% of their inventory being denied ad dollars through the use of industry standard keywords such as "lesbian," "bisexual" and "same sex.”

The study also analyzed publisher revenue lost from incorrect keyword blocking in the UK, Japan and Australia.

1 comment about "Incorrect Keyword Blocking Costs U.S. Publishers $2.8 Billion".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 21, 2020 at 7:22 p.m.

    The most important fact missing is the keywords that are being blocked, are they "vanity keywords" or "specific keywords"? I have and many other websites have faced the problem of having the vanity keyword - "Sweepstakes" blocked. Over the last 10 years nearly 100 percent of all B2C companies have used sweepstakes or contest in their ads. In any year, these companies will have a promotional tool within the ads 10 percent of the time and during the Christmas months.

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