The Guardian takes legal action against ad tech company Rubicon Project

The Guardian CEO David Pemsel.The Guardian

The Guardian is preparing to file a lawsuit against ad tech company Rubicon Project, alleging the ad tech vendor did not disclose fees it levied on advertisers looking to buy the newspaper’s online ad inventory, sources told Business Insider.

The Guardian is due to file its legal papers at the UK High Court’s Chancery Division, Business Insider understands.

A Guardian spokesperson confirmed the matter with Business Insider: “We can confirm that we have commenced proceedings against Rubicon Project for the recovery of non-disclosed buyer fees in relation of Guardian inventory.”

Rubicon Project did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Business Insider understands the amount The Guardian is looking to recuperate from the supply-side platform (SSP) spreads back over a number of years, but is only in the single-digit millions. Nevertheless, no matter what the outcome, the legal dispute will likely shed more light on the complicated nature of the online ad buying ecosystem.

SSPs enable publishers to sell their online ads through automated technologies, which is meant to be more efficient than getting a direct sales team to sell each slot individually.

The technology connects publishers’ advertising inventory to multiple ad exchanges and demand-side platforms (DSPs — automated technology ad buyers use to target specific users across a range of websites), opening up their ads to a large range of potential buyers who bid in an online auction for the available slots in the milliseconds it takes for a web page to load.

Publishers pay SSPs a fee for their technology. Ad buyers also pay a fee to the SSP in order to take part in the auction.

Publishers can demand in their contracts that the SSP discloses how much it is charging those buyers to participate in the auctions for their inventory. But many don’t — or sometimes the wording in the contracts is not explicit — so lots of publishers simply…

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