How publishers are getting fooled by ads.txt fraud

Now that ads.txt is gaining traction, it is inevitably running into kerfuffles.

Publishers say that third-party sellers like Thrive+, Ludius Media and SelectMedia asked to be listed on their ads.txt files, even though the publishers did not have direct relationships with these companies. These vendors say they were merely trying to form direct relationships with the publishers whose inventory they were reselling.

In response to reporting on this subject, the politics publisher Salon removed Thrive+’s name from its ads.txt file, SpotX and LKQD terminated their relationship with the reseller, and OpenX sent an email out to its publisher clients that called the whole thing a “scam.”

Launched by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab in May, ads.txt is a text file that publishers put on their web servers to list their authorized inventory sellers. The point of ads.txt is to reduce unauthorized reselling and domain spoofing, which are persistent problems in programmatic advertising.

The hubbub began last week when a publisher source announced on Reddit that he was receiving unsolicited requests from vendors to get on the publisher’s ads.txt file, which prompted an AdExchanger article on the topic. One of the vendors, Thrive+, was listed on 65 ads.txt files as of last week, according to Pixalate. Salon and were the largest publishers on the list.

One thing that is worth emphasizing is that resellers are accepted in ads.txt. Despite all the crap that publishers talk about resellers, many premium publishers still rely on them because resellers can help drive up the price of their inventory.

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