03/08/2018 / By JD Heyes
As Facebook and Google soak up an ever-increasing share of online ad revenue — estimated to be approaching 80 percent — news and information websites are looking for creative ways to serve ads and make money from them.
Some, like the Newsweek Media Group (NMG) , may even be bending the law in order to cash in on shrinking piece of the online ad pie.
As reported by Buzzfeed, the troubled publisher of Newsweek, which has devolved from a respected news source to clickbait factory, and International Business Times admitted earlier this week that three of its sites were operating malicious code experts say is designed to commit advertising fraud.
On Tuesday, NMG issued a statement saying that the company “has been alerted to a piece of potential code that disrupted ad tracking and ad viewability.” The statement said further that the code “affected IBTimes.sg, IBTimes.co.in and IBTimes.co.uk.”
The media group said it has launched an internal investigation “to identify the individuals responsible and will take the necessary action.”
The media company’s admission comes after a Buzzfeed News report in February that revealed probes by several ad technology firms discovered a number of NMG’s websites were buying traffic and engaging in ad fraud. The group denied it was doing anything wrong at the time. (Related: Tucker Carlson schools Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith over publication of BOGUS dossier: ‘You ran this because it was TRUMP’ (Video))
Buzzfeed reported further:
A source told BuzzFeed News that the sudden admission by NMG may be connected to ongoing reporting by the Wall Street Journal. A recent Journal story revealed new details about an investigation into NMG by the Manhattan District Attorney, including that the DA is now looking into reports of ad fraud.
BuzzFeed News asked NMG if its press release was issued as result of questions from the Journal. “The press release speaks for itself,” said Ken Frydman, CEO of Source Communications, a PR firm recently retained by the company.
Newsweek itself has no shortage of problems. In January investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office raided Newsweek’s offices, removing 18 computer servers as part of a lengthy investigation into the company’s finances.
“The investigators, armed with a search warrant, took photographs and gathered information about the servers and their capacity, according to sources close to the matter. Throughout the day, investigators were seen closely examining the equipment inside the server room,” the magazine itself reported online.
A grand jury investigation of NMG has been ongoing for more than 18 months; part of the probe has involved loans the company took out in order to purchase the servers. In addition to having cash-flow problems, NMG has also been in trouble with the IRS.
And now it’s been accused of ad fraud, which was first found by DoubleVerify, a digital media measurement company, in 2017. In previous interviews with Buzzfeed, the company said that it classified IBT’s Singapore, India, UK, and U.S. sites “as having fraud or sophisticated invalid traffic.”
DoubleVerify’s chief operating officer, Matt McLaughlin, also said that Newsweek’s UK edition was fraudulent, adding that the site was running very similar malicious code. He further noted that the code NMG is using aims to interfere with a third party’s ability to measure how much of a digital ad was actually viewable during a user’s browsing session. To be valid, it has to be at least partially viewable to a browser.
He said it was exceedingly rare to find a reputable publisher running the code — but again, the term “reputable” is relative, especially in the case of Newsweek.
But also Buzzfeed, whose editor, Ben Smith, chose to publish in full the unverified (and completely bogus) “Trump dossier” in January 2017, a decision that has resulted in the website being sued multiple times by people mentioned in the document.
The Left-wing media is eating itself in an attempt to remain relevant. I say good riddance, but it sure is fun to watch.
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.