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The Publisher Lab: Google In Hot Water with YouTube Ads, and More

The Publisher Lab: Google In Hot Water with YouTube Ads, and More

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Google Analytics 4 and Ranking Volatility

Welcome back to another engaging episode of the Publisher Lab, hosted by Tyler Bishop and Whitney Wright.

So, let’s talk about it: Google Analytics 4 (GA4). It can be rather frustrating and we know that many publishers have had trouble with the transition, particularly the changes in terminologies, classifications, and syntax. Hopefully, the continual updates to it will make it easier to use.

This week, Tyler shed some light on recent ranking volatility and the possibility of algorithm updates. While emphasizing the importance of adapting to Google’s changes, he also suggests that publishers carefully analyze traffic fluctuations to determine if they are genuinely search-related. By utilizing tools like Google Search Console, publishers can gain valuable insights into their site’s performance and make informed decisions. Google is changing up a lot of things right now and so continued ranking volatility is likely.

For this week’s episode, we have programmatic advertising’s quality concerns, Facebook’s decision to end news access in Canada, and the potentially game-changing YouTube ad violation scandal, where billions are at stake (though as a GCPP, we can only say so much about it).

You can see all episodes of the Publisher Lab at PublisherLab.org, wherever you find podcasts, or you can watch the podcast on YouTube.

The Quality Challenge in Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising has been under scrutiny due to concerns about its quality, as revealed in a recent article by Digital Content Next. While the focus has primarily been on advertisers, it is crucial to examine the impact on publishers and how they can ensure they partner with quality advertisers. Approximately 15% of spending and 20% of impressions are allocated to low-quality websites solely designed for advertising purposes. This prevalence of low-quality websites not only dilutes the value of advertising but also hampers transparency and efficiency due to information asymmetry and data access challenges.

From a publisher’s standpoint, it is essential to challenge the notion that the decline in advertising quality is solely the result of low-quality websites. While there are sites built solely to generate revenue, it is important to distinguish them from websites that provide valuable content and still aim to make money. The real issue lies in arbitrage and deceptive practices that deceive users into clicking on ads, which is no longer a profitable endeavor. It is crucial to acknowledge that advertising’s value is not reaching its potential due to ad inflation, where the supply of advertising increases as demand wanes. This leads to an oversaturation of ads, lowering their effectiveness and decreasing the revenue publishers can generate.

To address this quality problem, publishers should advocate for showing fewer ads and encourage advertisers to accept higher costs per click (CPC) and per thousand impressions (CPM). By shifting the focus away from optimizing for small returns on thousands of impressions and embracing campaigns that prioritize engagement and attention, the value of advertising can be increased. However, this shift is challenging, as incentives for advertisers, especially in larger companies, are tied to metrics such as lower CPC costs. Until these incentives change, a significant industry-wide transformation is unlikely.

To stay informed about ad rates and the ongoing developments in the advertising industry, we provide a comprehensive blog updated every other week. This resource consolidates news articles and insights into ad rates, offering valuable context and analysis. Whether you are new to the advertising ecosystem or an industry expert, the blog provides approachable content that sheds light on the trends and factors shaping ad rates. By exploring this resource, you can gain a better understanding of the complex dynamics at play and stay up to date with the latest developments in the advertising landscape.

In conclusion, addressing the quality problem in programmatic advertising requires collaboration between publishers and advertisers. Publishers must advocate for fewer ads and emphasize the importance of engagement and value over quantity. Simultaneously, advertisers need to be open to higher CPC and CPM costs to ensure the effectiveness of their campaigns. By working together and promoting transparency, publishers and advertisers can navigate the challenges posed by programmatic advertising and strive for a more efficient and higher-quality advertising ecosystem.

Facebook to Cease News Access in Canada in Response to Incoming Publisher Compensation Law

In a move reminiscent of Australia’s recent actions, Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, plans to block access to news on Facebook and Instagram for all Canadian users once the Online News Act becomes law. This legislation, approved by the Canadian Senate, aims to require internet giants to compensate news publishers for their content. However, similar to the Australian scenario, negotiations and revisions may still be in progress with Google’s response pending.

The growing trend of countries challenging the practice of using publishers’ content without proper compensation has raised important questions. The actions taken by Australia and Canada reflect a broader global issue, emphasizing the need to address the concerns of publishers regarding fair compensation for their content. The question arises: Will this trend continue beyond countries, with publishers increasingly demanding recognition and payment for their valuable contributions?

While such legislation may initially seem like a strong stance against big tech companies, the outcome often favors these giants. As observed in Australia, when Facebook threatened to cease operations, the government eventually relented. This type of legislation inadvertently grants significant negotiation power to big tech, leading to potential financial losses and decreased autonomy for publishers. The risk of driving down compensation rates for news content and imposing strict preconditions looms large, undermining publishers’ ability to monetize their websites independently.

Governments and big tech find themselves playing a high-stakes game of chicken, each hoping the other will cave in first. However, the reality is that complete shutdowns of platforms like Facebook and Instagram are unlikely to occur. History has shown that alternative platforms can emerge, even in heavily regulated environments such as China. Forcing tech companies to operate in a particular manner may not align with the best interests of publishers or consumers, limiting options, stifling competition, and potentially infringing upon free speech.

As we navigate this complex landscape, it is essential to consider the immense power wielded by these platforms, which can shape discourse and influence societal norms. Technocratic dominance raises concerns about the potential erosion of democratic principles and the unintended consequences of AI-driven systems. If private entities control vital aspects of governance, the risk of techno dictatorships looms on the horizon. While we may be far from that scenario, it is crucial to heed the warning signs and explore ways to maintain a balance between the power of big tech and the rights and interests of publishers and the public.

In conclusion, the Canadian situation echoes a global challenge that demands careful consideration. Achieving a fair and sustainable solution requires a delicate balance between protecting publishers’ rights and preventing unintended consequences that could undermine the democratic fabric of society.

Google Faces High Stakes as YouTube Ads are Discovered Violating Terms of Service

In recent news, a startling revelation has come to light regarding YouTube ads and their alleged violation of the platform’s own terms of service. A report by Adalytics, an ad analytics website, suggests that approximately 80% of the ads served by YouTube across the web have breached their terms of service. Surprisingly, half of these ads are not even displayed on YouTube itself but rather on third-party sites. Advertisers pay for their ads to be shown on YouTube, expecting a certain level of visibility and engagement. However, these ads often end up muted, auto-playing on the side, and unable to be skipped, which is not what advertisers signed up for.

Google, the parent company of YouTube, has refuted these claims, arguing that the report’s findings rely on unreliable sampling and proxy methodologies. They assert that the majority of video ad campaigns run on YouTube, not on the Google Video Partners Network, as suggested by the report. Despite Google’s response, this issue has raised concerns within the industry, with some speculating about potential consequences for the tech giant.

The controversy surrounding these alleged violations is not entirely new. Industry insiders have long suspected that Google gives preferential treatment to its own inventory in ad auctions, a practice that may undermine fair competition. The fact that charges are only now being brought to the forefront raises questions about the company’s awareness and response to such practices. This development could potentially lead to antitrust actions against Google, similar to discussions that have taken place in the UK. It is crucial for both advertisers and publishers to have a level playing field, where the value of advertising is preserved and not manipulated by intermediaries.

While more information is yet to emerge, the implications of this controversy are significant. Advertisers deserve a fair opportunity to reach their target audience, and publishers should be compensated appropriately for their ad space. The outcome of this case could potentially shape the future landscape of online advertising and bring about necessary changes to ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness in the industry. It remains to be seen how this story unfolds, and it is worth keeping a close eye on developments to understand the potential impact on the digital advertising ecosystem.

Comments or concerns?

If you would like to leave us a comment, concern, or critique, head to PublisherLab.org and let us know! We want to hear from you and what you would like us to talk about.

Return next week to see what shoes Tyler is wearing!

Whitney is a former journalist for numerous city-wide newspapers and online media sources and an accomplished digital and creative marketer. She has multiple years of digital publishing expertise and contributes regularly to all of Ezoic's content sources.