Traffic fraud cripples digital: Insights from the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting 2014

Geoffrey Precourt

Vivek Shah, the in-coming chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, opened the industry body's eighth Annual Leadership Meeting with a startling confession: "We have taken a perfect product and by our own actions have made it imperfect."

In addressing a Palm Springs, California, audience of more than 1,000 registrants - four times the size of the initial gathering in 2007 - Shah, who is ceo of digital media company Ziff Davis, Inc., insisted that "traffic fraud has reached crisis proportions. According to comScore, 36% of traffic today is generated by machines, not humans. That's astonishing."

"If you peel the onion one layer, you see that the overwhelming majority of suspect non-human traffic comes from small publishers, not comScore 100 sites," he continued. (The comScore 100 is a list of the top-ranking websites in terms of unique visitor numbers.) The reason for this is simple: "The ability to buy cheap 'bot' traffic and arbitrage it via ad exchanges has created an enormous financial incentive for bad actors to engage in a deception that threatens the very integrity of our business."