The Fake Traffic Schemes That Are Rotting the Internet

Terrific piece for Bloomberg by Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein:

“I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the Internet than ad tech,” says Bob Hoffman, a veteran ad executive, industry critic, and author of the blog the Ad Contrarian. “It interferes with everything we try to do on the Web. It has cheapened and debased advertising and spawned criminal empires.” Most ridiculous of all, he adds, is that advertisers are further away than ever from solving the old which-part-of-my-budget-is-working problem. “Nobody knows the exact number,” Hoffman says, “but probably about 50 percent of what you’re spending online is being stolen from you.”

Throughout history, the ad industry craved data. TV didn’t supply data. Print didn’t supply data. But online — online they got data. Tons of data. More data than they know what to do with. The catch is that online traffic is easily spoofed by fraudulent bots.

When you charge advertisers by the impression, and there’s no marginal cost to creating fraudulent impressions, large-scale fraud and click-bait content are inevitable consequences.

Thursday, 24 September 2015