USA Today publisher misrepresented ad placement to advertisers for nine months

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The owner of USA Today, Gannett Co., is admitting it was at fault for misrepresenting ad placements on its sites to advertisers for nine months, leading to discrepancies in the placement of billions of ads.

According to The Wall Street Journal, ad industry researchers identified errors in Gannett’s system that led advertisers to believe they were buying ads on one Gannett site, often USA Today, but were actually purchasing space on another, more local outlet. 

In addition to USA Today, Gannett owns news outlets in 46 U.S. states and uses real-time digital auctions to sell ad space across it sites. 

Gannett executives familiar with the situation told The Journal that the error was added to its ad systems in May 2021, and was detected on March 4 as new technology was being implemented. 

The corporate flags for the Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, fly outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The corporate flags for the Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, fly outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)
(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

GANNETT SAYS POLITICAL CARTOON OF DESANTIS PRESS SECRETARY ‘BEING REVIEWED’ AFTER CRITICS ACCUSE IT OF SEXISM

The error entailed ad space being mislabeled, such as a visitor to USA Today being labeled as a visitor to one of Gannett’s local sites, leading to the ad intended for a national audience only being shown in a local market. Advertisers were also told the ad would be placed within an article on a specific topic, but the topic sometimes ended up being completely different.

“In automated or ‘programmatic’ online advertising, ad space is sold in a matter of milliseconds as a user is loading a webpage. Ad space on the page goes into an auction with important information for potential bidders—including details about the site, as well as keywords that describe the content and some information about the user,” The Journal wrote.

“That ‘bid request’ data was inaccurate in Gannett’s auctions over the period the researchers studied, they said. The ad tech marketplace is complex, with various middlemen who make ad space available, run real-time auctions and assist advertisers in placing bids. Many of those players have protections in place to identify misleading inventory in ad auctions, but didn’t appear to catch the Gannett issue, the researchers said,” it added.

St. Louis, MO. A USA Today newspaper dispenser. (Photo by: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images)

St. Louis, MO. A USA Today newspaper dispenser. (Photo by: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

In a statement to The Journal, Gannett admitted it provided the wrong information to advertisers, but that the error was unintentional. It added, however, that advertisers did have some information available during the auctions, including page URLs, which gave them the ability to see the identity of the website where the ad was ultimately being placed.

The Journal noted that many brands who advertise with Gannett have rules for which news topics they want their ad to appear alongside with, usually seeking to avoid being associated with controversial content. Many of the ad auctions didn’t adhere to those rules because of the discrepancies. 

The company is still determining whether it will issue refunds to its advertisers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.