Plugging Up Audience Data Leaks
New service reveals who else might be tracking behavior on your site.
Audience behavior online is the latest frontier in data collection and sales. The entire supply chain, from publisher to advertiser, is supremely interested in how users behave on a site, where they’ve come from and what sites they travel to next. Accordingly, ad networks and data providers have begun collecting that information and are selling it to advertisers—sometimes without the host sites even knowing.
A new service from PubMatic, a sell-side platform that helps publishers monetize their ad inventories, attempts to bring this sometimes murky process into the light. Called Data Firewall, the service is able to identify what ad networks and demand side platforms are dropping tracking pixels on a site to track user behavior—information that is often sold to advertisers looking for specific audience segments.
While the practice is not necessarily a bad thing, publishers often don’t know it’s even happening and could be missing out on a lucrative monetization opportunity. PubMatic claims that publishers are collectively losing $1 billion in annual revenue from “data leakage.”
“The reason why dropping pixels could be beneficial to publishers is because, for the most part, they haven’t been able to monetize or sell their audience directly,” says Eric Klotz, vice president of marketing for PubMatic. “Publishers’ direct sales teams are still doing full page blocks and high-cpm guaranteed spaces and so on. But they’re not really slicing and dicing this inventory with all this audience information.”
The Data Firewall product, which leverages PubMatic’s ability to show publishers what ad networks and DSPs are paying publishers for the inventory they’re selling, reveals who’s dropping pixels on a site—and how many are dropped. That lets a publisher determine if it’s getting a fair price, if any, for the data that’s being recorded from its sites.
“We’ll alert publishers when it seems disproportional,” explains Klotz. “For example, if there are 50 pixels being dropped by an ad network which is paying the publisher a $.50 cpm, that’s probably not very fair. If the ad network pays the publisher on average a $2.50 cpm and they’re dropping that many pixels, then that’s a better deal. The fact is, the publisher may not be able to monetize that inventory on their own.”
Likewise, if a publisher can see what ad network or DSP is mooching off their audience data without offering a cut, they can opt to block them from the site(s).
According to an executive at one of the publishers adopting the service early, another benefit is regaining control of audience information. “The great thing about it is it gives total control to the publisher over what they want to do with the data. If we choose to block various data providers or tell ad networks that they can’t continue to run certain data providers on our site then that’s our prerogative. If we decide we want a cut of the action and try to monetize some of that we can do that as well.”