Publishers push back against platforms and ad tech

This edition of the Rundown is coming to you from the slopes in Vail, Colorado, where we are having our first-ever Moguls event for publishing CEOs, followed by the Digiday Publishing Summit. OK, I’m not actually skiing, but I can see the mountain from my hotel room, so there’s that.

Outrage Theater
Last week, I wrote how the ongoing tensions between advertisers, agencies, publishers and Google is theater. Our reporting has borne this out. Those I speak to roll their eyes at the ongoing public declarations of shock that a long-tail ad network would ever put ads in questionable places.

The timing of this advertiser boycott shouldn’t be dismissed, not to go all InfoWars. The “bombshell revelations,” driven by News Corp’s Times of London, happened in the lead up to Advertising Week in London. That made sure to dominate the week’s many panels there. And now, here we are about to go into the New Fronts and Upfronts period. It doesn’t take Colombo to deduce that there’s a fair amount of negotiating going on here. What many I’ve spoken to expect to happen is Google will be forced to give in on several issues of concern to advertisers. Those concessions are our focus in pursuing this story.

Publishers fight back
It’s nice to see publishers take the initiative once in awhile. Today brought news that The Guardian is suing The Rubicon Project over undisclosed fees. Hamish Nicklin, CRO at The Guardian, has been outspoken in his disgust with how the ad tech world is taking more than its fair share of transactions. It’s why we did a profile of Nicklin for Digiday magazine earlier this year. (It’s available here.)

This kind of high-profile dispute is uncommon. Usually these matters are settled quietly in private. Rubicon is going through a tough time, with a stock price in the toilet while it scrambles to make up for a late start with header bidding. Meanwhile rumors have continued to swirl that it will soon be snapped up by a competitor. New CEO…

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