Publishers in the Crossfire: Big Tech’s Ad Tech Tango with AI, Legal Battles, and Content Quakes

AdMonsters Wrapper: The weekly ad tech news wrap up
This Week
May 20, 2024
Digital Media Struggles With a Content Quality Crisis
Google's AI-Powered Search
Apple Partners With OpenAI
Apple's Ad Blocker Causes Trouble for UK Publishers
Google Squares off Against UK Publishers
Are Ad Tech Companies Becoming More Like Publishers?
Content Quality Crisis: Programmatic Shenanigans and the AI News Flood
Two unsettling trends are emerging in digital media: premium publishers partnering with content farms for a quick programmatic buck and the rise of AI-generated news content that may be overshadowing human journalism.

Shady Publishers and Content Farms: A Programmatic Play

In a move that's shadier than Forbes' recent exploits, premium publishers like SPIN, The Jerusalem Post, and Benzinga have been caught partnering with notorious content farms. These publishers leverage their reputable domains to host low-quality, ad-laden content churned out by third-party vendors like Content IQ and Cortex Media Group. This sneaky setup lets them cash in on programmatic ad revenue without lifting a finger to produce the content themselves. Essentially, it's an MFA (made-for-arbitrage) easy button, trading on trust built over decades to push trashy clickbait for a quick payday.

AI-Generated News: The New Content Farm?
Meanwhile, AI is stirring the pot in the journalism world. A recent 404 Media story spotlighted how Google News might favor AI-generated, repurposed news articles over original human-reported ones. AI content farms are cranking out thousands of articles daily, outpacing human journalists and threatening to drown out authentic reporting. Despite Google's assurances of prioritizing quality, the speed and volume of AI content mean that low-quality, misleading articles often find their way to the top of search results.

The Bigger Picture: Quality and Trust in Jeopardy

Both trends highlight a troubling shift in digital media: the erosion of content quality and integrity. Publishers are compromising their reputations for easy programmatic dollars, while AI threatens to flood the market with quantity over quality. As the digital ad landscape becomes more treacherous, publishers and journalists must uphold high standards and transparency to maintain audience trust.

In this new normal, where content farms and AI-generated news are vying for attention, the onus is on media professionals to adapt and innovate. Embracing AI responsibly, focusing on depth and context, and directly engaging with audiences are key strategies to navigate this challenging terrain. - LdJ
Google's new AI Overviews feature is here, shaking up the search landscape. Now, search results come with AI-generated summaries, leaving web links in the dust. As The Washington Post highlights, this change could hit content creators hard. For instance, Kimber Matherne of Easy Family Recipes fears a sharp drop in her Google-driven traffic.

Our own AdMonsters article from last week echoed these concerns, with Gartner predicting a 25% drop in web traffic from search engines by 2026. Scott Messer from Messer Media notes that Google's shifting algorithms demand publishers to adapt quickly or risk obsolescence. The "tsunami of crap" from low-quality content and AI's rise is reshaping SEO.

What Does This Mean for the Ad Tech Ecosystem?

For publishers, this is a wake-up call. The traditional SEO playbook is getting a major rewrite, and Google-reliant traffic might soon dry up. Diversification is key — email newsletters, social media, and direct engagement.

Ad tech players must also innovate as traffic and monetization dynamics shift. Google's AI overhaul means those who can pivot and evolve will be left standing. The AI storm is here, and it's time to adapt, or the new tech will sweep you away. - LdJ
Apple and OpenAI: A New Era for the Advertising Ecosystem?
Brace yourselves for a seismic shift as Apple and OpenAI are reportedly teaming up, with a big reveal expected at WWDC. This tech love affair promises to upend things for app and web publishers.

With OpenAI wooing publishers across the open web to license content to train its LLM and help pubs build new customer-engaging products, a deal with Apple on top of its partnership with Microsoft could only strengthen OpenAI's position in accelerating the AI arms race.

Integrating OpenAI's snazzy AI tech with Apple's ecosystem could mean smarter ad placements and ultra-personalized user experiences. Imagine AI that gets your audience better than their BFFs, serving up ads that feel more like custom content. Expect higher engagement rates and longer user sessions – music to any publisher's ears?.

But, let's spill the tea on the potential pitfalls. Apple in talks with both OpenAI and Google about AI integrations highlights the fierce competition and possible regulatory headaches. Even with Apple's ironclad privacy stance, the mix of on-device and cloud-based AI services could introduce new vulnerabilities. Plus, AI-generated summaries in Safari could turn SEO on its head, meaning users might get all they need from summaries without clicking through to your site? (sounds familiar, doesn't it?).

The shift to AI-driven content and ad delivery could necessitate new strategies, focusing on quality content and user experience over traditional data-driven tactics. Exciting times are ahead but keep an eye on the twists and turns. - LdJ
Apple's New Ad-Blocking Tool Rattles UK News Publishers
Apple's proposed "web eraser" in iOS 18 has British newspaper groups in an uproar, warning it threatens journalism's financial lifeline. The News Media Association, representing major titles like The Times and The Guardian, argues the AI-driven feature could decimate ad revenues, critical for funding quality journalism. They've requested a sit-down with Apple, stressing that ad-blocking not only imperils digital revenues but also risks depriving readers of essential information.

This move by Apple is a significant shake-up for the ad tech ecosystem. For publishers, it signals a potentially catastrophic reduction in ad revenues, compounding existing challenges from reduced traffic and ad spend. Managing the customer journey with an intelligent journey system centered around a publisher's value proposition will be the best path forward.

The broader ad tech industry might see a ripple effect, pushing innovations in ad formats and delivery methods to circumvent such blocking tools. It's a call to action for publishers to diversify revenue streams and for the ad tech community to develop more sophisticated, unobtrusive advertising solutions. The balance between privacy and monetization is tilting, and the industry must adapt swiftly to this evolving landscape. - LdJ
London prepares for a high-stakes showdown as Google's parent, Alphabet, battles a colossal £13.6 billion ($16.9 billion) lawsuit. At the heart of the drama? Allegations that Google's ad tech dominance has cost UK publishers big time. The Ad Tech Collective Action is leading the charge, hoping the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) will let the case proceed.

Google, however, isn't breaking a sweat. Their legal eagles dismiss the lawsuit as a hot mess, arguing that it fails to show how Google's alleged shenanigans hurt publishers. And let's not forget that Google's lawyers insist that their ad tech moves have been nothing short of a boon for the industry.

This kerfuffle unfolds amidst a broader crackdown on Google's ad practices by both UK and European regulators. With a history of multi-billion euro fines and ongoing legal battles in the U.S., Google's courtroom calendar is looking pretty packed.

If this lawsuit gains traction, we could see a ripple effect where more publishers feel emboldened to challenge the big players in ad tech. It could lead to increased scrutiny of ad tech practices and potentially more favorable conditions for publishers. However, if Google prevails, it may reinforce the status quo, leaving publishers to navigate the existing power dynamics. Either way, the outcome of this case is sure to have significant implications for ad tech. - LdJ
Walk the Talk: Ad Tech Companies Turning Into Publishers to Showcase Their Tools
Ad tech companies are stepping into publishers' shoes, launching or acquiring publications to demonstrate their products in action. For instance, Zette's acquisition of the Below The Fold newsletter expands its reach and offers firsthand insight into the publishing world.

This trend isn't isolated. The Trade Desk's The Current and Poool's The Audiencers both serve as real-world demos for their tech, proving their value and adding credibility.

This strategy blurs the lines between vendor and client, fostering a symbiotic relationship. By using their tools in a live environment, ad tech companies prove their effectiveness, refine their products, and gain deeper insights into publishers' challenges. This approach redefines the vendor-client relationship, pushing the industry towards a more integrated and mutually beneficial model. - LdJ
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