Ads.Txt is Gaining Momentum: Are You On Board, Publishers?

Launched by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) last spring, ads.txt is growing in importance. The concept is that publishers host a file on their servers which lists all the companies that are authorized to sell their inventory. Buyers can then validate the sellers they are purchasing from to avoid spoofed domains and arbitraged inventory. Sounds like good news all around!

Yet, adoption of ads.txt was slow at first. Only 13 percent of the 10,000 most popular domains that sell digital ads adopted ads.txt in the 100 days following its release. Even as recently as last month, an article in MediaPost called ads.txt “underrated.” There’s no doubt — the programmatic industry, like any other, can be slow to embrace a new concept. Remember header bidding? Some bought in sooner than others, but at least one major tech company that was slow to adopt it took a significant stock hit.

Digiday reported in November that, according to “multiple publishing sources,” adoption was slow because publishers had finite tech resources, were overcommitted to other projects and had a lack of understanding about how ads.txt could benefit them.

So, what’s the upside to a publisher? According to industry experts like IBM Watson, it’s revenue — the price of premium publishers’ inventory should increase as the money spent on spoofed domains rather goes to legitimate publishers.

The trend is taking off. Google and The Trade Desk adopted the ads.txt protocol several months ago. In the past couple of weeks, one of the largest buyers and sellers of digital advertising AppNexus, made a splash by announcing it is enforcing ads.txt by disabling buying from unauthorized sellers. Around the same time, as one of the leading native advertising platforms Outbrain announced that it is now supporting ads.txt. OpenX (a leading ad exchange) just stated it is instituting a ban from its exchange on all reseller inventory that is not authorized in publishers’ files. The company also reported that 54 percent of comScore 1000 publishers on their exchange have adopted ads.txt.

Ads.txt is not without its limitations, of course. It doesn’t account for in-app inventory, doesn’t specify the type of inventory authorized sellers can carry and can’t catch fraudulent impressions. And there have been numerous thought pieces about the intricacies of ads.txt.

Still, the latest trends demonstrate that ads.txt is probably here to stay and we at AffinityX can help you navigate your options.