Google’s Sellers.Json Could Use Some Transparency

AdMonsters Wrapper: The weekly ad tech news wrap up
This Week
June 16, 2020
Google’s Rather Opaque Sellers.Json
A Glimpse of Recovery
Where CCPA Comes In and Goes Forth
Another Round: Facebook Vs. Australia
Roku Takes on Amazon, Linear TV
Google’s Rather Opaque Sellers.Json
Image Source Jounce
A year after the first Sellers.json file appeared, Google has finally deigned to join the party with a “beta” version. Finally buyers leveraging Google channels will have a better idea of the path their dollars take to get to publishers. Praise transparency!

Except, as Jounce Media notes, Google’s sellers.json file ain’t all that transparent. First off, 53% of seller accounts are listed confidential, but then there’s something stranger.

In a blog post, Jounce writes that “[a]s of June 15, 42% of the websites and apps that authorize Google as a seller [in ads.txt files] have no matching seller ID in Google’s sellers.json file….” This “unmapped sellers” phenomenon occurs in the sellers.json accounts of other exchanges and SSPs, typically if a seller turns off a demand channel and fails to update their ads.txt, but at far lower rates than Google.

On top of that, Jounce knows these paths to publishers are active via its ongoing RTB Supply Path Benchmarking project (you can find these reports through AdMonsters Monstership program). So why isn’t Google disclosing its relationships with these publishers?
Why This Matters
Google has never seemed to be a big fan of the sellers.json project, highlighted by a dustup with The Trade Desk over whether Exchange Bidding should count as a direct source or an intermediary. (TTD said intermediary, Google balked.)

Still, it’s funny that Google would release such an opaque sellers.json. Who is this even useful for? Jounce mentions that only 5% of accounts listed contain a machine-readable seller domain, meaning most of the document is readable by humans but can’t really be effectively processed by DSPs.

Granted, this sellers.json is a “beta,” but that tag is doing a lot of heavy lifting. We wonder if Google is testing how transparent it needs to be with the buy side—just who will raise a stink and what will they demand. But we also could think this because we have a toddler at home and have become very familiar with “boundary testing.”

Still, we bet the state attorney generals and the Department of Justice might find the lack of transparency in the sellers.json file quite interesting as they put the final touches on their various antitrust filings.
A Glimpse of Recovery
Just when you think recovery is around the corner, WHACK—it turns out that wasn’t a corner at all and you planted your face into a brick wall.

A lot of digital publishers are probably feeling that way after reading that latest advertising forecast from the typically revered Magna Global. Linear and digital media owners in the US are predicted to see $11 billion less in ad revenue in 2020 compared to the year prior.

Oh wow—we just heard your collective hearts sink. Gigantic plop.
Why This Matters
Wait, wait—let’s take that $11 billion in context. Total ad revenue for US digital and linear publishers is expected to drop from $224 billion in 2019 to $213 billion in 2020. Maybe we’ve been huffing too dirty-mask fumes, but that’s only a 5% drop year over year.

Just? you cry indignantly.

OK, consider that US ad revenue for those publishers dipped 14%-15% between 2008 and 2009 at the beginning of the Great Recession according to Magna. Consider how dark the advertising revenue picture was looking just a few months ago. And consider how many publishers are actively making some kind of subscription plan work for them to alleviate the ad revenue dip while also setting up a reliable future revenue stream.

And Magna actually expects digital advertising to increase 2% year over year, with a 10% bump in digital video (thinking CTV) and… a 7% jump in social, the lion’s share of which is likely headed to Facebook. Still, political advertising is going to dump $5 billion into the overall picture, which also helps relieve the Covid pain.

So peel yourself off that brick wall and keep on walking—that corner is coming. Magna suggests digital ad spend will stabilize over the summer and recover almost fully after.
Where CCPA Comes In and Goes Forth
How are you planning on spending July 1, 2020—or as we call it in digital publishing, CCPA Day? Sobbing under your desk and chugging right from the bottle? Scrambling to get your opt-out button displaying correctly on your homepage? Screaming at a non-functioning opt-out button while your consent management platform provider puts you on hold? Oh, how the possibilities fill us with excitement!

To lead up to the momentous day, you could read the Final Statement of Reasons from the California Attorney General’s Office to try to better understand how the law will be enforced. Or better, you could read digital strategist Zach Edwards’ comprehensive summary, which zeroes in on the bits of the seemingly fluid law that are most likely to cause havoc.
Why This Matters
As we’ve noted in other places, CCPA is a living, breathing, and evolving law. And Edwards’ run-down not only points out the biggest spots of potential contention for digital media companies, it also singles out future points of turmoil. Identity marketing and resolution seems to be in CCPA’s sites, and there’s a keen focus on data collection from mobile devices, as well as DOOH and kiosk marketing that leverages data.

Hopefully, your organization is like Wayne Gretzky—prepared for July 1, but skating to where the puck is going to be. (•̀ᴗ•́)و ̑̑
Facebook Vs. Australia
The title fight featuring Facebook against Australia is really heating up. In an effort to level the playing field between publishers and the duopoly, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was tasked with creating a mandatory code of conduct that included a proposal forcing the social media giant to share advertising revenue with news organizations.

Well, Facebook responded this week, claiming that people in Australia barely visit Facebook for news and therefore the revenue earned from news was not primary to its business. “If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant.”

Meanwhile, the tech behemoth acknowledges the social value of news on their platform and wants to look at other measures to continue what it says is a healthy competition with news outlets. Facebook points to the 2.3b clicks, estimated to be worth $195.8m they sent Australian news publishers, as well as the direct contributions they have made to news organizations overall as a sign of their commitment to supporting the news.

Google has also rejected the ACCC’s proposal to share revenues with news, also saying they barely make any money from news. Gloves are off.
Why This Matters
We might be watching this fight live from Australia right now, but the question of how much the duopoly has undercut publishers business models has been going on in the global arena for quite some time. Publishers have long lamented the loss of advertising dollars to Facebook and Google, who dominate the discovery and distribution of news worldwide. These losses have only been heightened by the pandemic, as local news outlets have had to make significant cuts just to stay alive—with some having to completely close down.

The ACCC has until the end of July to draw up the final code, which the government has said it will quickly implement. So for now, the question, of whether Facebook and Google should be required to compensate publishers for advertising placed against their content remains a burning one and major media companies, like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has lent its muscle to the fight.

If these motions go through, it could have bearing on Google and Facebook's relationship with publishers worldwide.
Roku Takes On Amazon, Linear TV
During the pandemic, Roku has been a big winner. As more people cut the cord and turn to streaming over recent years, the streaming leader has diversified its business resulting in massive growth in subscribers and average revenue per user. Earlier this month, Roku took aim at linear TV, adding 30 free ad-supported live TV channels. And then there was the launch of a new ad platform, in an effort to become the King of OTT advertising.

The company’s latest move, a direct play against Amazon and linear TV, is a partnership with America’s largest supermarket chain Kroger, to integrate shopping data to “make TV advertising more precise and measurable for CPG marketers.”
Why This Matters
By its own accounts, Roku dominates viewing time among streaming boxes, commanding 44% of viewing time which is double its biggest competitor, Amazon Fire TV. But what Amazon has the Roku doesn’t is shopper data.

If it’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that people really like CTV and OTT, and maybe linear TV not quite as much. So CPG marketers will be looking for places to shift their ad dollars from linear TV, while also increasing the value of their ad impressions. Roku is betting on being that alternative.

In the end, this could increase average prices paid to Roku which in turn means a greater revenue share with publishers.
Sweet Tweet
What if "feed" is a really terrible product design for news?
Worth a Listen
How to Take Radical D&I Action in the Advertising Industry
Principal Bennett D. Bennett and strategist Nathan Young are this week's guests co-hosts.

They are behind the urgent call of action to agencies on the diversity & inclusion front—and take us behind the scenes of the letter from 600 professionals to leadership coming to fruition, and what traction they hope to see.
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