Why do you have advertising?
Just like with a newspaper, the money we receive from selling advertising is a vital revenue stream. It helps to pay for essentials like office costs, events, staff — and the web server you are using to view this page right now. Each time a page loads is called an ‘impression’. We sell hundreds of thousands of impressions of adverts each month.
How do you decide who to sell advertising to?
Some of the adverts you will have seen on the site may be ‘direct sales’, organisations to which we have sold advertising directly or with which we have some other relationship (such as a campaign we support).
All of the impressions which are not sold directly by our team are handled by advertising networks in a process known as ‘real-time bidding’. Each advertising space on each impression of a page is subject to a live auction process between 80+ advertising networks, with the winning bidder being offered the opportunity to display their message. This process takes place within 100 milliseconds of you loading the page:
Behind the 80+ advertising networks stand literally thousands of media planners, media buyers and creative agencies who might want to place an advert with us, so in this sense we do not “choose” who we are selling adverts to — the system handles this for us in real time.
So why can’t you block ‘unethical’ adverts?
While being pragmatic about the necessity of advertising, what is displayed on the site should not fly in the face of our values. For this reason we don’t want to be seeing adverts for Wonga any more than you do. To an extent, it is possible to block certain advertisers by placing the company name or other phrases in a blacklist.
There are a number of reasons why this is not effective in all cases, however, and why offending adverts can be difficult to track down and eliminated once they have been shown to readers:
- The metadata for many adverts doesn’t contain the name of the advertiser, meaning the approach of blacklisting using text doesn’t work.
- There is no widely-adopted naming convention for adverts. In order to block an advertiser in our system it needs to be searchable so that we can find it. Not all adverts will show up in a text search, which means that we can’t always find them to block — even when we know what the text in the image says or someone has provided with a ‘screenshot’ of the offending ad.
- Thousands of different adverts can be shown to thousands of different readers in any one day.
Image: Search Engine Watch