Threat or Opportunity? 4 Topics for Publisher Dialogue in 2015

Ad tech is mostly unregulated, as it’s an emerging and rapidly growing industry that hasn’t quite “matured” yet. As of late, there are several industry leaders, most notably the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), that are pushing for certain regulations in order to stabilize and clean up the industry landscape. There are pros and cons to the creation of these regulatory bodies and standards, and any oversight has potential implications for advertisers and for publishers.

Every year since 2009, the IAB has organized a publisher-focused event with the intent of bringing small, independent and influential publishers to our nation’s capital to engage in learning sessions designed specifically for the small publisher. This event is called the IAB Small Publisher Conference & Fly-In. These publishers get the opportunity to take part in unique networking opportunities and are given a direct platform to express to legislators the challenges, concerns and impact that biased legislation and regulation may have on their businesses.

Too often, the 1 percent of the publishing industry (the comScore 1,000 for the most part) are the ones driving innovation and change in the ad tech industry. The other 99 percent of the Internet (save for some of the sketchier crannies of the web) are just as, if not more, affected by changes in the industry. They deserve to have their voices heard and the interests of their businesses protected as well. Events like the Fly-In provide publishers with a forum for discussion that they wouldn’t typically have access to.

I am fortunate enough to interact closely with publishers of all sizes and have found a few common themes that I hope will be brought in front of Washington as areas of opportunity and discussion for the industry. Here is what surfaced as the biggest challenges facing the mid tail:

  • Walled gardens: “Walled garden” is a term for a browsing environment that controls what sites and content a user can access, most notably platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While walled gardens have proven to be great distribution channels for publishers’ content, there are also downsides to their monopolizing effect on the web. As these platforms continue to dominate the way we interact with and share online content, it will be increasingly important that the concerns and needs of content creators are advocated for and protected.
  • Ad quality: Ad quality is a constant uphill battle for publishers of all sizes and for demand-side players. Oversight and enforcement of best practices regarding the quality and specifications of ad creative advertisements would be a game-changer.
  • Ad blocking and toolbars: There are limited alternative monetization options for publishers to choose from, and display advertising is one of the key components to most publishers’ revenue models. However, it is no secret that advertising isn’t exactly a desirable addition to the user experience of a website. This has led to the emergence of ad blocking solutions for users who want to browse an ad-free Internet. In order for sites to continue providing their content at no charge to their readers, display advertising is necessary. The growing popularity and availability of ad blockers is an important topic of discussion that both publishers and marketers need to rally around in order to protect both of their interests.
  • Copyright infringement: While stricter government regulations on copyright infringement would help the original creator of the content maintain ownership, it could also accidentally and automatically punish well-meaning publishers who curate and share content.

We believe it’s important for publishers to have a say in the political/legislative component of digital advertising structure. What issues do you feel should be brought up?

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