Malware Has Long Been a Plague For Publishers. As Malvertising Gets More Sophisticated, How Can We Win?

Malware Has Long Been a Plague For Publishers. As Malvertising Gets More Sophisticated, How Can We Win?

As a publisher, the plague of malware in all its various forms, including bots, bugs, ransomware and worms, has always been a concern. However, one that’s particularly worrisome due to its direct link to revenue, is malvertising. Site owners are searching for an innovative solution that keeps both revenue and safety in mind. As the industry struggles to come up with an answer, publishers continue to face several issues.


Consumers will do what’s necessary to protect themselves.
Millions of people turn to ad blockers as a way to protect themselves from malware, which means millions of people that publishers can no longer monetize. With fewer people to monetize, publishers have to get creative. One way they’re doing this is by creating new ad formats that sacrifice user experience in the name of revenue. (Auto-play video ads, for example.) Not surprisingly, this only motivates more people to go the ad-blocking route, because now in addition to protecting themselves, they want to avoid the nuisance of aggressive advertising.

Additionally, some publishers are experimenting with software that enables them to reach consumers even if they’ve installed an ad blocker. Others are asking or forcing visitors to whitelist their site so they can break through the blocker, but so far we haven’t heard any runaway success stories with any of these solutions. User response is mostly categorized as either negative or nonexistent.

Publishers lack the control they need.
As programmatic advertising becomes more popular and promising, the number of parties involved increases. This leaves less control in publishers’ hands and forces them to rely on their ad partners to deal with harmful ads. This is problematic for two reasons: 1) the ad exchanges themselves are still figuring out how to better identify the root of bad ads – so it’s not as if publishers can view them as the experts. 2) ad exchanges feel less urgency than publishers since they have less of a stake in the game. If consumers encounter a dangerous ad, they hold publishers and advertisers responsible – not ad networks.
The availability of new software may empower publishers to locate and solve issues on their own. We’ve made this a high priority at Freestar and are currently working with several partners, including The Media Trust and Confiant, to test their solutions. We’ve seen promising initial results in their ability to identify and block threats, and we’re hopeful that as publishers industry-wide also dedicate expertise and bandwidth to testing, our combined learnings will get us closer to a solution.

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Jen Cherniske

Jen Cherniske is VP of Marketing at Freestar.