NYT & WSJ Digital Subs Payday; Mozilla Disses SWAN & UID 2.0; Malvertising Infiltrates IOT Devices

AdMonsters Wrapper: The weekly ad tech news wrap up
This Week
August 10, 2021
Digital Subs Keeping Big Pubs Alive
Malvertising Now Infiltrating IOT Devices
Mozilla Disses SWAN and UID 2.0
Around the Water Cooler
Digital Subscriptions Holding Steady, For Now
Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay
Digital subscriptions to newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal steadily rose in 2020 thanks to COVID-19. People wanted news and wanted at their fingertips. It was assumed, and expected, that this rise in subs would eventually plateau and decline once states reopened and lockdowns ended.

That’s not the case for The New York Times and Dow Jones, parent company of The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and MarketWatch.com. In fact, Q2 revenues are up and digital subscriptions are climbing. The New York Times expects to hit 8.5 million digital subscribers by year’s end and overall revenue increased 15.7%. Dow Jones saw circulation and subscription revenues increased 11%; digital subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal grew 21%.

But still, some critics, like Mark Sternberg over at AdWeek, pointed out that the boom is definitely slowing. Subscription revenues may have been strong for both premium publishers, but growth hasn’t been as robust as it had been in recent years.
Why This Matters
Pivot. That’s the keyword of 2020. Companies both large and small had to turn business models on a dime to keep revenue flowing. This shift continues to pay off, at least for larger companies.

Speaking of The Times: “Of the [142,000 digital-only subscriptions ] added, 45% were to Cooking, Games, or the audio app Audm. (The rest subscribed for news.) That’s the highest percentage of non-news product subscriptions yet.”

For Dow Jones, “digital advertising accounted for 56 percent of total advertising revenues in the quarter, compared to 54 percent in the prior year period.”

As Admiral CEO Dan Rua noted in a recent webinar with AdMonsters: “Because of [ad and privacy blockers, GDPR/CCPA privacy consent, a cookieless world], it’s time to reach your hand out and say hello and build some sort of relationship with that visitor and cultivate that relationship, which ultimately cultivates revenue and longevity.” Companies need to get creative to survive in a cookieless world and find alternate ways to target consumers and generate revenue.

This is easier said than done for local news pubs, whose in-depth, local pandemic coverage was necessary and impactful. Shifting isn’t quite as easy for them, and they took hard financial hits in 2020 and for the ones still alive and kicking, it’s been hard work toward any type of recovery. Local news is vital and needs to be protected.

We’d like to suggest programmatic guaranteed as a serious contender for increasing revenue. Digital ad spend is growing faster than it has in years.
Malvertising Now Infiltrating IOT devices
This is a plot for a modern-day horror movie come to life. Cybersecurity firm GeoEdge worked with AdTech companies InMobi and Verve Group and discovered something disturbing: A global malvertising attack specifically targeting at-home IOT devices. Lauded as the first ad-based cybercrime aimed at home IOT devices, this malware infiltrates devices via mobile ads. Users don’t even need to click on an ad or scroll an infected page to have malware installed.

“Digital advertising continues to capture a larger share of marketing budgets for companies large and small and as with that growth comes potential risks. It is critical that we have the checks and balances to identify and contain potential malicious threats before they can infect users’ devices,” said Kunal Nagpal, SVP and GM, Publisher Platform and Exchange at InMobi.”

Market research firm IoT Analytics predicts an estimated 30 billion IoT device connections worldwide by 2025, making people’s homes a vulnerability for malvertisers.
Why This Matters
IOT has changed digital media and marketing in numerous ways. Marketers can analyze customer behavior in real-time, personalize ads better, increase automation, and increase click through rates because ads are more relevant. So what could go wrong? Everything. Malvertising and malware are increasingly a problem for both advertisers and publishers.

GeoEdge notes that the attack only “required that hackers possess a basic understanding of device API documentation, some JavaScript knowledge and rudimentary online advertising skills.” How can marketers protect their budgets against this?

This threat of malvertising on IOT devices is here. Digital publishers have been slower to adopt IOT strategies than some other industries, but as consumers live increasingly connected realities their content distribution channels will have to evolve. The data and personalization opportunities are endless.

In the meantime, IOT pubs (just like all other digital pubs) will need to work with ad verification companies as an industry standard to police ads and ensure that malware doesn’t get served to consumers across distribution channels? The more this happens, the more consumer trust wanes with advertisers and publishers. If a malicious ad can make it onto any of your O&O channels, why would anyone want to get their news, information, etc. from your organization?
Mozilla Not Down With SWAN and UID 2.0
Photo by Anthony from Pexels
In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, Mozilla released an analysis of SWAN and UID 2.0 and the company does not support or approve these technology replacements of cookies.

SWAN and Unified ID 2.0 want each web user to have an anonymous identifier that ad companies can use for tracking and targeting purposes. Mozilla sees this as a regression, not advancement.

"From a purely technical standpoint, these proposals are a regression in privacy in that they allow tracking of users who are presently protected against tracking," said Mozilla CTO Eric Rescorla and engineer Martin Thomson. "Moreover, the techniques used here – especially redirect tracking but also identifier-based tracking – are already ones which most major browsers attempt to prevent.”
Why This Matters
Watch out, Chromium. Mozilla is coming for you. Mozilla blocked FLoC and also blocked third-party cookies early on, along with Safari’s ITP.

“With the current debate on privacy-preserving advertising, we have a real opportunity now to challenge the status quo and improve the privacy properties of online advertising—an industry that hasn’t seen privacy improvement in years,” Mozilla said in a blog post. “Attempts by the advertising industry to improve privacy through voluntary and policy-based initiatives have demonstrably failed. As we continue to explore privacy-preserving advertising proposals, our plan in the Firefox browser is to ratchet up the privacy and security protections we offer, with the goal of eliminating cross-site tracking from the browser entirely.”

All of the cookie replacement options are far from perfect and need work. Mozilla has privacy at the forefront of all its decision-making, but the company is clearly David to Google and Apple’s Goliath. Their market share is far from what Safari and Chrome achieve. So does any of this matter? Mozilla is vocal, but will it amount to any change?
Around the Water Cooler
  • In light of California's AG requiring that companies comply with GPC signals, the IAB released a white paper exploring key topics to determine if GPCs succeed in reflecting consumer preferences in an efficient manner that balances business, consumer, and regulator interests.

  • In this latest episode of "The vanishing marketing data lake," Facebook deads the Advanced Measurement Mobile program. The jury is still out on whether this is good or bad.

  • Apple’s privacy changes are leading to higher digital advertising costs, according to mobile game-maker Zynga.

  • Travel digital ad spend is on the mend, but nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Facebook's reasoning for banning researchers investigating misinformation and political ads on the platform isn't holding up. Mozilla, of course, weighed in: "Ad Observer...collects ads, targeting parameters and metadata associated with the ads. It does not collect personal posts or information about your friends. And it does not compile a user profile on its servers.
Sweet Tweet
These are the kind of shady adtech practices that mislead advertisers into believing they're buying safe content, when they're actually being led directly into the heart of the disinformation economy.

@kargo has some explaining to do.
Worth a Listen
Claire Atkin Helps Brands Define Safety for Themselves
You spent months and millions on your ads. Where exactly are they running? You sure? @catthekin tells you why you should check your ads
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