Ad fraud allegations continue to besiege Newsweek Media Group
DoubleVerify says it found fraudulent code on the company's Newsweek and International Business Times domains.
The fallout from reports of ad fraud continues for Newsweek Media Group as ad tech vendors say they have stopped selling NMG inventory through their exchanges and networks.
AppNexus and SpotX told The Wall Street Journal they have ended their relationships to sell ads on NMG properties.
Third-party measurement and authentication company DoubleVerify said Thursday that it had identified fraudulent code running on five NMG domains. The code blocks third-party measurement firms from determining if an ad was viewable during a browsing session. DoubleVerify explains that it manipulates browser characteristics to make it appear that the site is delivering authentic and viewable ad impressions, thus inflating the number of billable impressions.
“We have seen this technique used in the past by bots and malware in an attempt to deceive measurement methodologies used by DoubleVerify,” said Wayne Gattinella, president and CEO. “This is the first time we’ve seen this scheme scaled at the publisher level.”
Last month, Buzzfeed first reported several ad tech firms discovered that some Newsweek and International Business Times domains owned by Newsweek Media Group were engaging in ad fraud. After initially denying the claims, NMG said on Wednesday that it has fired two employees connected with the issue, according to The Wall Street Journal. The publisher’s head of sales resigned in February in the wake of the allegations.
DoubleVerify has designated the domains — ibtimes.com, ibtimes.co.uk, ibtimes.co.in, ibtimes.sg and newsweek.co.uk — as Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT) Sites, blocking its advertiser customers from buying ad impressions on the sites.
Allegations against NMG first kicked off with a January report from ad monitoring and verification firm Social Puncher that found NMG was buying pop-under and pop-up traffic to artificially inflate traffic and viewability numbers.
On Wednesday, NMG said it had removed what it referred to as “potentially disruptive” code from three of its domains — ibtimes.sg, ibtimes.co.in and ibtimes.co.uk. The company added it is engaging three MRC-accredited ad verification vendors and will display Invalid Traffic (IVT) rates measured by the tools on its corporate site. Additionally, the company said it has begun the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) certification process for all of its publications.
On Thursday, all of the display ads we observed on the ibtimes.com domain were being delivered by Google AdSense. All five domains identified by DoubleVerify are available in the Google AdWords Display Planner tool. Google has IVT filters, including protection against ad hiding, and a viewability measurement solution called Active View. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.