Talking Points Memo and Intelligent Tracking Prevention

Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

I’ve been fascinated by the discussion about Apple’s new anti-3rd party cookie moves, especially in Mac OS X High Sierra and in iOS 11. The digital advertising companies are freaking out of course, but I don’t have much sympathy for their position.


The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.


Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.



(click here to continue reading Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser – Adweek.)

Apple Coffee Thermos

Apple answered:

Apple responded to that criticism this afternoon by fully explaining what they are doing for the consumer and standing up for themselves.

“Apple believes that people have a right to privacy – Safari was the first browser to block third party cookies by default and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop.

“Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private. The feature does not block ads or interfere with legitimate tracking on the sites that people actually click on and visit. Cookies for sites that you interact with function as designed, and ads placed by web publishers will appear normally,” the company said.


(click here to continue reading Apple responds to ad group’s criticism of Safari cookie blocking.)

Apple Logos

Josh Marshall, the publisher of the long-time political blog, Talking Points Memo, has some thoughts about Intelligent Tracking Prevention, and thinks, in general, it will be good for sites like his. 

Here’s where it gets especially interesting to any publisher. We rely on tracking in as much as tracking is now pervasive on the ads running on basically every website, including TPM. But really tracking has been a disaster for publishers, especially premium publishers.

Here’s why.

I’ll use TPM as an example. But it’s only for the purposes of illustration. The same applies to countless other publications, particularly quality publications as opposed to content farms. TPM has an affluent, highly educated, generally progressive audience. They also tend to be political influencers. Our readers also have a strong brand affinity with TPM. Our core audience visits day after day. All of those attributes make our audience very desirable for many advertisers. So great, even though we’re small, advertisers want access to that kind of audience. So we can command good rates.

Tracking has shifted that equation dramatically. (And again, TPM is just here as illustration. This is an industry-wide phenomenon.) Let’s say we take the whole core TPM audience, this set number of people. They have these attributes I mentioned above. Tracking now allows the ad tech industry to follow those people around the web and advertise to them where they choose. So an advertiser can identify “TPM Readers” and then advertise to them at other sites that aren’t TPM. Or they can find a group that has the attributes that I describe above and track them around the web regardless of which site they’re on. You don’t have any reason to care about that. But we care about it a lot because it basically takes from us any market power we have. Tracking means almost all publishers are being disintermediated in this way. This is one big reason the platforms and the data vendors are scarfing up all the new revenue.

So in many ways, disruptions in tracking are good for publishers. Actually basically in all ways it’s good. In this way, we have a vaguely common interest with Apple since we see our business future as tied to paid services, memberships, etc. Apple does too. In practice, the little players have the least ability and resources to protect themselves during periods of market chaos. But in theory at least, if Apple’s self-interest led it to disrupt the cookie architecture and wreak havoc in Google’s business model, that would likely be good for publishers.

(click here to continue reading What’s Apple Up To? – Talking Points Memo.)

A visit to this morning brought up sixteen 3rd-party cookies as reported by Ghostery. Cookies from Amazon, Google, Facebook, as well as sites I’d never heard of, like Adsnative, Krux Digital, RevContent and others. /shrug…

Fraud from bots represents a loss of $6 billion in digital advertising

Spare Change

That’s a lot of fraudulent advertising.

Almost one-fourth of video ads and 11 percent of display ads are viewed by fake consumers created by cyber crime networks seeking to take a chunk of the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising, according to a new research report released on Tuesday.

The study, by digital security firm White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers, is one of the most comprehensive looks to date at the persistent criminal activity involving online advertising. Specifically, it addresses “bots,” automated entities that mimic the behavior of humans by clicking on ads and watching videos.

These bots siphon money away from brands by setting up fake websites or delivering fake audiences to websites that make use of third-party traffic. The report estimates that advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to bots next year.

The study included 36 ANA member companies, including Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Ford Motor Co Verizon Communications Inc and Pfizer Inc.


(click here to continue reading Fraud from bots represents a loss of $6 billion in digital advertising – Yahoo News.)

If I were a corporation like Ford, Verizon or Pfizer, and I cared, I’d demand a meeting with my ad agency, and insist upon receiving a detailed audit of the last year of digital advertising. Well, maybe not, because then I’d discover that a lot of the annual budget was knowingly pissed away and my ad agency kept the commission anyway.

Bots are computers hijacked by viruses that are programmed to visit sites and mimic human behavior, creating the illusion of authentic Web traffic to lure in advertisers. Contrary to what many in the industry believe, that bot traffic doesn’t exist just in the dark corners of the Internet, White Ops found; it infects mainstream sites and services, too. A quarter of the bot traffic logged during the study was found across the top 1,000 sites on the Internet, according to White Ops Chief Executive Michael Tiffany.

“The most interesting part of this study to me is not the top-line numbers; it’s that fraud is happening in the well-lit parts of the Internet,” Mr. Tiffany said

Online display ads bought through automated or “programmatic” channels were 55% more likely to be served to bots than display ads purchased through other channels, according to the study. Some advertisers said they expected the discrepancy to be even higher.

“It was helpful for us to learn that this is a problem that affects everyone, and that the method of procurement didn’t make as much of a difference as we thought it might,” said Fernando Arriola, vice president of media and integration at ConAgra Foods .

Marketers say they hope the ANA research will force publishers, ad brokers, and agencies to police ad fraud more aggressively. For starters, they plan to begin including language in their agreements with online publishers and other suppliers to specifically address “nonhuman” traffic. The ANA recommends that all marketers take that step.

(click here to continue reading Advertisers Pay Billions for Bogus Web Traffic – WSJ.)

The thing is, savvy corporations already were aware of this problem:

Concerns over ad fraud, viewability and overall inventory murkiness are causing Kraft to reject up to 85% of all impressions offered via real-time ad marketplaces, Kraft’s Julie Fleischer said today at the Ad Age Data Conference in New York.

The massive number reveals that talk of digital advertising supply-chain corruption is indeed leading to action among top brands. Kraft, one of Ad Age’s 100 leading national advertisers, spent $35.9 million on digital advertising in 2013, according to Ad Age Datacenter.

“That 75% to 85% is either deemed to be fraudulent, unsafe or non-viewable or unknown,” Ms. Fleischer, the company’s director of data, content and media, said, referring to the rejected impressions. “Think about what this means for us as an industry. When we’re rejecting 75% to 85% of the impressions available, that’s a problem.”

(click here to continue reading Kraft Says It Rejects 75% to 85% of Digital Ad Impressions Due to Quality Concerns; Big Spending Advertiser Wants No Part of Fraud )

[Editor’s note – Full disclosure: a year or so ago, we met with a startup that purported to have invented tools and procedures that would ferret out this kind of digital advertising fraud, but nothing ever came of the meeting, we never used nor resold their services. I think a large advertising corporation ended up purchasing this startup]

The Facebook Fallacy

Coins of Realms
Coins of Realms

Very interesting point – is Facebook really a viable business? Will it be around in ten years? Will it be profitable? How?

Facebook is not only on course to go bust, but will take the rest of the ad-supported Web with it.

Given its vast cash reserves and the glacial pace of business reckonings, that will sound hyperbolic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

At the heart of the Internet business is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy.

The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency. The nature of people’s behavior on the Web and of how they interact with advertising, as well as the character of those ads themselves and their inability to command real attention, has meant a marked decline in advertising’s impact.

I don’t know anyone in the ad-Web business who isn’t engaged in a relentless, demoralizing, no-exit operation to realign costs with falling per-user revenues, or who isn’t manically inflating traffic to compensate for ever-lower per-user value.

Facebook, however, has convinced large numbers of otherwise intelligent people that the magic of the medium will reinvent advertising in a heretofore unimaginably profitable way, or that the company will create something new that isn’t advertising, which will produce even more wonderful profits. But at a forward profit-to-earnings ratio of 56 (as of the close of trading on May 21), these innovations will have to be something like alchemy to make the company worth its sticker price. For comparison, Google trades at a forward P/E ratio of 12.

(click here to continue reading The Facebook Fallacy – Technology Review.)

Live to Ride
Live to Ride

Facebook may have demographic information on 800,000,000 people, more or less, with more of less accuracy1, but what are they going to be able to do with this data? Currently, Facebook ads are so poorly targeted as to be a joke. I just looked at my profile, and see seven ads, only one of which is even mildly targeted to me2. The others are Dell ads3, luxury clothing ads, credit card ads, and some GMO tea in a plastic bottle. No wonder that GM decided to spend their money elsewhere. They weren’t the first to notice abysmal performance with Facebook ads. I’d be hard pressed to advise an advertiser to spend money on Facebook when there are so many better options.

General Motors Co said on Tuesday it will stop advertising on Facebook, even as the social networking website prepares to go public.

While GM gave no specific reason for dropping Facebook ads, a source familiar with the automaker’s plans said the company’s marketing executives decided Facebook’s ads had little impact on consumers.

(click here to continue reading GM to drop Facebook ads due to low consumer impact | Reuters.)

If I was a broker, I wouldn’t own Facebook stock for long.

  1. for instance, I have lots of erroneous information in my profile, just on principle []
  2. some sort of hot sauce []
  3. plural!! even though one of the only things in my FB profile is a love of Macs! []