Today’s digital publishers are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, web content sites—including newspapers, magazines, TV stations and pure play web content—rely on revenue generated from hosting digital ads. On the other hand, submitting to digital advertising—especially programmatic—forces publishers to relinquish substantial control.
The greatest asset a content site has is its reputation. Establishing a good reputation and faithful following is not easy. Once a reputation is tarnished, it is excruciatingly difficult to build it back. For example, despite the site's popularity, it took Yahoo years to recover from the three billion user account breach it experienced in 2013.
Visitors to a website hold the publisher responsible for their experience. Besides content itself, the publisher is accountable for any security issues, surreptitious monitoring, annoying ads, slow, unresponsive performance or unsatisfactory user experiences. Visitors perceive that all of these factors are well within control of the publisher. If any of these things manifest themselves, they are because the publisher is irresponsible or cares little for the visitor.
Because of digital advertising, publishers have accountability without authority.
When a site agrees to host digital ads, it agrees to a system that embeds itself with the code that runs that site. Publishers make a tacit agreement to share data and control to a byzantine system of companies that make up the digital advertising infrastructure. With this agreement, third parties can not only help themselves to user data, they can also deposit software directly on users' machines. At the same time, third parties can not only display ads but they can do so in a way that may slow or otherwise mar a user’s experience. But—it is the publisher—and not this hidden, complex network of ad delivery—that is held accountable.
Right now publishers have little choice in the matter. They can host ads and accept the consequences, while hoping for the best. Or, they can play it safe and remain fully in control of their sites but miss out on critical ad revenue.
Change is coming. Technology exists that enables publishers to “have their cake and eat it, too.” Publishers can host digital ads, and they can transform the third-party system into a first-party one. In other words, publishers can accept advertising. But, instead of blindly accepting all the third-party code and calls, they can employ technology to transparently convert these to first-party code and calls. By having first-party code and calls, publishers can regain authority. They can see what’s going on and manage it. They can understand who is doing what and, if necessary, do something about it.
Plainly put, accountability without authority is egregious; it puts publishers in a no-win situation that could ultimately tarnish trust and erode reputation, and even lead to their ultimate demise. In order to have control, accountability must be accompanied with authority. Unfortunately, with digital advertising, publishers have unwillingly lost authority.
To learn more about transforming your third-party ecosystem of digital advertising to a first-party one and regaining visibility and control, please: