It’s been a pretty crappy year for news about the internet. From the ongoing battle over net neutrality, to the recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s shenanigans and the bitter friction of social networks, it sometimes seems hard to remember why we put up with it all (I personally do it because I like to collect old paper, and that is vastly easier on the internet). Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is a billionaire, and even he is having a bad week on the internet. In his TV interviews this week, he has that vacant stare of a man who remembers how this was all fun and games in college, and kind of wishes it was like that again. Yes Mark, we’re all really sorry that this happened too.
But getting to the point of why I sort-of hate the internet this week: There’s been a burst of bad ads going around the ad networks recently — pop-ups, redirects, etc., and we’ve been dealing with them on Bleeding Cool too, unfortunately. As Fast Company recently noted:
Many social media posts lamented that even top-tier publishers like The New York Times and The Atlantic were willing to run such intrusive ads on their sites. But experts say the problem isn’t with lack of discernment on the part of site publishers but with an extremely complex online advertising system that makes it hard for publishers involved to detect, let alone weed out, misleading and malware-laden ads.
Unlike in print or broadcast media, where advertisers and agencies that represent them can submit ads directly to publishers for review, online ad space is typically bought and sold through complex systems of intermediaries and exchanges. Advertisers and their representatives programmatically bid in real time for the rights to show ads to particular users.
I’ve been fighting to keep this stuff off the site for a long time, and that’s the issue in a nutshell: the ad ecosystem is getting progressively more complicated, more AI-driven, and faster, which means it’s much harder for human intermediaries to weed out the bad actors. Over the years, I’ve burned several ad networks we’ve used to the ground over this issue and never looked back. Our current ad network has been far better at dealing with such things in the time we’ve been with them than anybody else that we’ve dealt with, and I just wanted to say that they are aware of the issue and have the technical chops to get it handled.
Because these things are often targeted very narrowly by geography and your device and browser, it’s often useful to let us know a few specifics if you run across them. If you do have an issue, we have a form for reporting it.
I won’t pull a Zuckerburg and leave it at “sorry that this happened” — because I think the tech people we’re dealing with on the issue would confirm that I’m freaking furious that it happened. It’s going to get fixed.