For Publishing Companies, The Problem Is Publishing Companies.

Many advertising technology companies have designed this industry to be confusing. Most of its profits are found in the margins of that confusion. But, ad tech doesn’t have to be as confusing as many have made it out to be over the last couple of years. For publishers, the only thing they need to understand is who controls the market and who’s paying to reach that market. Anything in between those two things or obfuscating that relationship has been built to do so by design. That includes the dozens of technologies and companies that rely on pushing publishers and marketers apart to earn a dollar. It also includes techniques that whitewash inventory and then resells it any way that doesn’t value the premium of an audience.

The publishing industry has an important decision to make, and the result of that decision is something publishers should be leveraging as they consider who they partner with for their advertising technologies. Publishers can voluntarily choose to leave the current ad tech landscape behind just as quickly as they decided to partner with many of the companies currently running the industry into the ditch. Making this decision is about having the gumption to do what’s right for audiences on the web.

It’s time to stop playing the victim card and, instead, start wrestling back control from an industry gone wild.

AdTech Is A Hot, Privacy Mess. Why Stick Around?

Every day we have conversations with publishers, and they all say the same thing to us during our discussions. Ad tech is a mess, and it’s hurting the publishing industry more than it’s helping.

It’s perplexing to us when we sit back and think about it. Advertising technology firms are beholden to publishers, not the other way around. Why would publishers let ad technology companies run over their users unabated?

If the publishers want to convince the industry to whip itself into better shape in a hurry, it can kill the demand for their services by refusing to partner with companies that have a track record of abusing both readers and their data.

Publishers can stop partnering with companies that are convinced bidding exchanges are helping publishers earn more. Everyone in publishing knows who these advertising offenders are (Hi there, Outbrain and Taboola!), but they’re all still in business, and they’re all still collecting data on the websites of some of the world’s top publishing companies.

The people we talk to are right, most of the ad tech industry is a dumpster fire right now. It’s a tire-filled, garbage packed, dumpster fire. The thing is, though, publishers hold the extinguishers in their hands already. They can put it out at any time. The question is, do they want to put it out?

Publishers Chose To Be Here. They Can Choose To Leave.

Despite some of the industry’s best intentions, ad tech is still a free market. Publishers can choose from an enormous list of partners for their advertising needs. If you can think of a unique way to serve up advertisements, you can probably find 2–3 companies already building the tools for you.

Who publishers choose to partner with is a voluntary decision. The technologies they select is a voluntary choice. The type of advertisements appearing on their websites is a voluntary choice. How they’re presenting these advertisements to readers is a voluntary choice. They’re all conscious decisions, and they’re being made by the parties signing the partnership agreements.

The best part about this industry is that the free market gives publishers a real choice. Publishers can choose to leave it at any point. They can choose to rely on more ethical technologies. They can choose to control the advertisements they want to display. They can choose to put their readers ahead of their profits.

They can also choose to put the ad tech industry on notice and hold them accountable for the decision’s they’ve been making lately. Or, they can choose to keep ignoring the realities and just keep hoping things will change. So far, the choice has been the latter, and it’s disappointing.

The industry may need a coalition, but it’s not a group of advertising power houses that need to unite. It’s the publishers that need a coalition, and they’re the ones that need to be setting the standards for ad tech.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, It’s Hard To Make The Right Choice, But It’s Worth It.

The decisions have compounded. The wall has been built. It may take a while to tear it down and rebuild it with the doors and windows we need, but, that doesn’t take away from the reality that every decision the publishing industry has made regarding ad tech has been voluntary.

It makes it possible for the publishing industry to make the decision to better itself. If we start moving, we can streamline this industry in a hurry and get back to our primary focus: helping publishing companies keep the world’s most valuable information free and open to everyone who needs to read it.

Advertising can be a part of the solution. Advertising shouldn’t stand in the way of a story, and it certainly shouldn’t stand in direct contradiction to the ethics that govern journalism.

Publishers can choose to be better at any time. It’s going to be a long journey back to respectability, but choosing to be better is the first step, and the publishing industry can make that decision voluntarily, ad tech coalition or not.

What are you waiting for?

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