Since 2004, more than 2,000 newspapers have closed in the United States, and many local news outlets are struggling to build a digital business. But one remarkable success story is the Albany Daily News, a website that clocked nearly 10 million pageviews in August, roughly five times that of the 160-year-old Albany Times Union newspaper, according to analytics service SimilarWeb.
The most popular news site in Albany has a simple secret to success: Fake just about everything and rake in the advertising dollars.
The Albany Daily News is an empty husk of a website filled with old content that for months was showered with questionable traffic as part of a digital ad fraud scheme, according to new research from Social Puncher, an ad fraud prevention consultancy. […]
The sites, whose ultimate beneficiary is unknown, provide yet another example of how the digital ad industry is being ravaged by dubious schemes and outright fraudsters who steal money from brands by causing ads show up on sites and apps with fake or manipulated audiences, among other techniques. The fake local sites also illustrate a painful irony that while authentic local news outlets in the US and Canada struggle with business challenges, there’s apparently plenty of money or influence to be gained by masquerading as one.
For crying out loud.
Google is more than just an advertiser on these sites. Its ad platforms are helping them earn money. The Edmonton and Albany sites make the majority of their ad inventory available via Google’s ad network, meaning the tech giant facilitates the programmatic sale of ads on the sites and takes a cut of revenue when ads are displayed. Along with Google, the sites also list their inventory with AppNexus, another large ad network.
A Google spokesperson said the Edmonton and Albany sites were not violating any of its policies and that they appeared to be receiving some of their traffic by placing ads on other websites via networks such as Taboola and Outbrain. AppNexus declined to comment specifically on the sites.
* From the conclusion of the study…
Brands only receive a report at the end of the month/quarter/year with a list of domains where their ads were displayed. If domain names have the typical pattern of old local media, then it is impossible to understand that this is fake, and therefore it is impossible to avoid such schemes.
So, advertisers are being ripped off, actual news sites which produce real content are missing out on revenue, but the fraudsters and companies like Google rake in the dough.