Scott Cunningham, IAB TechLab founder, on advertising in crisis (interview podcast) 

Dr Johnny Ryan Adblocking Leave a Comment

In 2015 Scott Cunningham, the founder of IAB TechLab, told world “we messed up” on behalf of the advertising industry. His was the first major industry mea culpa that began a shift toward addressing user problems with advertising on the web.

When we spoke last week I challenged him about the IAB’s DEAL strategy on adblocking, which he devised, and which may lean too far toward recommending that all publishers restrict access to users. His response is worth reading, and makes clear that DEAL is not an all or nothing approach. Only a small number of publishers with very exclusive content may be able to sustain a strategy that blocks adblock users from visiting their content. Most can not.

Scott shared the background to the IAB’s LEAN principles for more respectful, subdued advertising formats. He focused on LEAN because of his own concern as an engineer about the decline in user experience as ad loads increased over the last decade, and in response to an off the record meeting he with adblock company Eyeo in late 2015.

We found common ground discussing Facebook’s strategy on adblocking: engaging with one’s visitors to find out what they dislike about ad formats, fixing those formats, and then using tamper-proof ad serving to show them in a way that adblock companies can not block.

We discussed the coming shake up as publishers benefit from new European privacy regulations that potentially empower them as intermediaries for their visitors data. Scott also spoke about how trade bodies will position themselves in this scenario. Having stepped down from the IAB in 2016 he can speak about this from a remove. He now operates Cunningham.Tech, a consultancy.

This podcast is a shortened version of a longer conversation. For an even shorter version you can read brief brief highlights here. The transcript of the podcast is at the bottom of this note, and the audio is here.

Highlights from the podcast

1. On Facebook’s strategy of showing ads with a better experience to adblock users.
Listen at 20:54
Scott Cunningham:

Facebook was able to reach out, get some data, first party information of those conversations with their consumers, that’s their customer service. “Let me modify my product for you based on your needs”. To me it’s not that complicated. I think for Facebook though to do it is different necessarily then possibly a metro daily news organisation or some other type of content and or social engagement that a product might have. So Facebook’s approach, while fantastic, and while it works around their model, the question becomes, well, can it be applied to others content structures and other organisations that may not enjoy that type of lock in with those end users. And I don’t know the answer for that, except that my feedback to the publishing community was, continue to experiment. Continue to have the conversation with your customer. Any you’ll find out what their, what I call “pricing elasticity of user tolerance” is like. You know?

2. On why only some publishers can deny adblock users access, and others should not.
Listen at 25:58

Scott Cunningham:

On the DEAL programme “limit and lift” is subjective based on the content that you own. So at USA Today – I can’t speak for them anymore, it’s been a long time there – but clearly the brilliance of USA Today as a brand, and USA.com, was really more about the rich media, visually storytelling package itself, versus the textual content. Except for some of the columns and these types of things. So if you think about that brand versus the larger newsroom of, like, The Wall St. Journal, which already has the subscription wall, these models and the content reflect who they are. And at the end of the day, when I say “limit or lift” on those restrictions, and with those working groups who put together that document, it was very much of a detect, explain to the consumer, understand what they are looking for, understand your own business, and you can choose to limit access, or lift the restrictions based on your comfort zone, the percentage of the blocking, and these types of things. So it’s not a – for me the DEAL wasn’t a “all or not”. It’s very much of a grey area based on how you want to engage your consumer. But again I go back to, if you’re not offering a good user experience, a good customer service, you’re not going to know how to actually play the DEAL. You’re really not. And if you’re not engaging your customer on these things, and having that understanding and that conversation with them, then you’re probably going to have a losing hand.

3. On new European data regulations and the opportunity for publishers.
Listen at 33:53

Scott Cunningham:

If you’re a publisher, the hypothesis goes, that the EU policies and directives coming down could absolutely benefit the publisher in such a way that it allows — the traditional publisher, when I say traditional, maybe not some of your large social platforms Google and Facebook. And let me very explicit there. — the traditional publisher because it forces them to have a conversation with their customer on explicit ownership on transaction of what that data looks like. That helps the traditional publisher, news publisher or entertainment, own that conversation. And if I’m a trade body in representation of those publishers I’m not so opposed – possibly – to the regulations that are happening in Europe.

 

Transcript

Transcript of PageFair Insider podcast: Scott Cunningham, founder of IAB TechLab, and Dr Johnny Ryan of PageFair. 

Ryan
Welcome to a discussion at Page Fair. This is a series of conversations about the future of media and the Open Web. Let us know at PageFair.com.
Scott is a particularly interesting person to speak to about the crisis in media and advertising now. The position he recently departed from is that he was the founder of TechLab at the IAB. So Scott, thanks for taking the time.

Cunningham
Well thank you.

Ryan
You did a lot of interesting things at TechLab. I think the one that probably gained the most attention from people who weren’t looking at the day to day work at TechLab was your mea culpa. This was the post you wrote in October 2015 in which you said “we messed up”, and essentially owned up on behalf of a very large industry to the sins of the digital advertising industry over the last decade and a half. Will you take us back to that time, and what caused that. I think it might have been that you met up with Eyeo (the company that owns AdBlock Plus) and had a chat. Was that the thing that triggered this mea culpa.

Cunningham
I think the ultimate decision to write the piece and put it down on paper, yes, there was a meeting between me and Eyeo at DMexco in September 2015. But having said that, the creation of the TechLab and all the working groups, which I can get into as well, had an element of user experience built into it. And that was by design because one of the things in my observations over twenty years was that since I started building websites with banner ads without web servers – starting was back in 1994, 95 –

Ryan
I think they were called rectangles back then Scott

Cunningham
They were called rectangles! And I didn’t know what the pixel size was. Generally speaking – and I’ll share that story of my first banner – but generally speaking, all of those years, when I put the Tech Lab together, it was “make sure we’re threading user experience as we can into the creation of any technical protocol that has to do with advertising”.

The meeting with Eyeo, and met with those folks, was a behind the scenes meeting to understand where their points of view were coming from. And after a good 45 minutes to an hour discussion, the one thing that resonated with me that was in my control, that I could improve from that control, was to say “you know what, their argument around user experience was exceptionally valid”. I’m not going to say that any of their other arguments were. But that one was something that had resonated with me, and frankly had resonated with those of us on the tech side who had been looking at what was happening with our products in the B2C environments for years. Since fading to the recession really.

So I think what you saw when I wrote that piece was basically some people say “Scott you fell on the sword for a 400 billion dollar supply chain”. I didn’t necessarily look at it that way. I looked at it as, “you know what, we have an opportunity here to reset on some really critical areas. And some of that was the relationship between the sales group and the tech group in publishing. Some of that was the reset between adtech stacks and this notion of how we all got drunk off our reach and scale and retargeting. Some of it was to basically say, “you know what? If we are not in the business of practising good customer service then what are we in the business of?”

Ryan
You know, maybe this is an opportunity to go back to that first rectangle. You briefly diagnosed some of the ills, but how did we get to this place? What were the worst leaps that in retrospect were negative?

Cunningham
You know, what I think back, I think back to those renaissance years of really creative art work that we were doing. Those were a lot of fun years. A lot of learning that we were able to do. And you know the next thing that was right around the corner was adtech. And you know I go back to those days though when I – in 2014, I think it was Senator McCain was asking a lot about malvertising in US Congress and asking publishers who isn’t there an opt-in mechanism for consumers versus opting out in defence of the adchoices programme. And the response – and my response has always been – consumers have opted in. They’ve opted in to free content. And that was a good ten or fifteen year run up until that recession when there was very little issues with consumers opting in to free content and their user experience.

Next thing you know, we had this recession. And this was spelled out in the piece “We messed up”, that adtech was there, we were trying to maximise yield, our print revenues were declining, or our broadcast revenues were going to tank. And you know it became much easier to just add more ad units to the page because there was no subscription model. I like to tell the story of when I came back to the news world for a second tour one of my large metro dailies had thirty seven ad units on the front, and the sales team wanted to know why their Southwest Airlines airplane coming across the page was stuttering. And I said “OK, lets take all the thirty seven other add units off the page and find out if it’s still stuttering on your machine”. And sure enough the airplane flew pretty smooth on their rectangle ad.

And so you could tell at that time to maximise revenue we were destroying the processing units on many people’s machines during those days. And did the sales organisation understand? Absolutely not. They didn’t understand. Those of us on the tech division did. We saw what was going on. We tried to optimize the site designs as much as we could during those years. But we also had to make money. And in some cases during those years it shot us in the foot from user experience, so when you read that piece, when I was describing our work to “scrape dimes” it could have cost us dollars in consumer retention and consumer loyalty. I think that’s where you saw a little bit of consumers saying “hmm, there’s an adblocker here?”. That started the conversation more and more in that community.

Ryan
That is fascinating. That phrase “scrape dimes” or “count dimes” comes from John Paton, doesn’t it? Your old boss from Digital First Media? And there’s an interesting subtext to part of your story, which is that the engineers knew and the non-engineers did not. And in such an immature medium which is so engineering heavy, we’re maybe seeing a slow shift in the balance of influence where engineers’ voices are maybe getting a little bit louder. And by the way, by “engineers” one could say maybe “designers” as well.

Cunningham
I agree. I agree with that. For me, being an engineer and a developer way back in the day, actually in the last eight years I had to go the other way and speak business. And it was because there has always been this tension in publishing between sales divisions and the tech division. Event when I created the TechLab this manifested itself on the IAB Board to some extent, because that’s a sales division. And for me it was really important to find ways to partner with the sales division because quite frankly I like my job, I wanted revenue too. And for me to be able to translate and speak their language, as opposed to going the other way, I think those of us on the tech side who can actually speak the revenue language, that’s where solid partnerships have really manifested themselves. And I think some of the core digital products out there in some of these organisations, you can see it. You know, where there are relationships internally.

Ryan
So you finally climb the mountain. Through your various layers of experience you finally get to a place where you can influence industry wide. And you join the IAB, and your next project is you establish this thing called the TechLab. Will you talk about that?

Cunningham
So I off and went and had conversations about joining the IAB. And one of the first things that came to mind was: back in the years of first developing sites, especially around the recession and thereafter, those of us who were developing in our divisions, when it comes to the “P&L”, were usually the “L”. And we were obviously looking at expenses very carefully.

And when you have to develop responsive websites between desktop and mobile that’s one thing. When you have to develop responsive sites that respond to different ad display standards, that’s ludicrous. And at the time we in the publishing world kind of shot ourselves in the foot by having multiple standards, between the OPA, the IAB, and whatever else. So my feedback to them was, “I’m going to go do this. We’ll find out where it leads, but the first thing is that I need the commitment from the publishing community, the board members and my peers, to say ‘we can have our membership in other trades [bodies], but there has to be one technical standards group’”. Otherwise all we’re doing is we’re branching ourselves. And therefore spending more, money going out the door. That was the first hurdle I needed to clear those things.

The second was, as you recall, the ‘traffic of good intent’ initiative was happening at the IAB, and that was around anti-fraud initiatives. And having come from the publishing world, and having spent time in adtech, I was one of the few that had both experiences, and had cleaned up a fair share of non-human traffic over the years as well. So I was very attracted to the possibility of putting programmes in place. So when I joined the IAB I partnered up internally with Mike Zaneis, who is now the CEO of the Trustworthy Accountability Group. He being a lawyer in DC and me being an engineer, it was a perfect match. We put our brains together and started to formulate plans as to how to maximise the ability to generate programmes of anti fraud, anti malware, anti piracy, these types of things that ended up becoming TAG.

And at the same time I needed to figure out a way to centralise the technical standards. Up until that point the IAB centres of excellence had different technical standards, and I needed to make sure that the sandbox was intact and all the technical toys in one area. And I had some really great partnerships with executives within the IAB who saw the vision that I was trying to put in place and said “yep, move M right over here, move VAST over here, move openRTB over here, take these and put them over here”. Well what was interesting was, one day I got a call from the commerce minister of an Eastern European country who said, “we see this thing called OpenRTB. We would love to generate ‘programmatic’, I think is what you call it, in our back yard. We’re hoping to clone it and put OpenRTB in our country”. And I said, “well that’s interesting. It’s a specification, and if you clone it and you put it in your backyard then it doesn’t become a standard”. So I needed to find a way to make these technical programmes global. And the membership of IAB at the time is IAB US. We had all of these IABs around the world. So I needed the technical infrastructure that was a separate organisation, that was a pillar that all the IABs around the world could lean on for all the technical standards. And between that and the rise of TAG, and TAG needing a technical arm for its work, that’s how I came up with the idea to spin out the TechLab.

Randall and the board were very supportive of these types of things, and next thing you know we announce TAG and TechLab on the same day, two 501(c) nonprofits.

Ryan
Now we’re at the part of the story where TechLab is up and running, you’ve made your mea culpa, and back to adblocking: you’ve been looking at adblocking as an issue for several years at this point. It’s just one of the things on your radar. One of the initiatives you came up with was the LEAN initiative, which – when I read the LEAN initiative I think, that makes perfect sense, and these are things that should have happened fifteen years ago.

Cunningham
You know I think it was more about rallying around principles. And putting us on a path to better business practises, whether it was B2B or B2C. And let me explain. You know, one of the things I learned during my IAB years from a public policy perspective was that if you really want to move the needle on things as an organisation you start with a set of principles, as opposed to coming out with a set of principles. Because if you come out with standards or technical standards without the appropriate market rallying point you are basically chucking a document that sends a bunch of technical stuff in a pdf to the market, and we’ll see what happens. And so you know I think rallying around a set of principles that lends itself to future standards makes a lot of sense. You know, and I don’t think people connected the dots internally at trade associations in the past that starting with principles can equal technical standards. Maybe sometimes starting with principles equals other standards, but nobody ever tried to make it a technical equation I don’t think. But I – from the legal perspective and from the public policy perspective in my observations and working with different governments and lobbyists it was easy for me to do.

Now, where LEAN came from was – ironically before we had released the blog post or the mea culpa / “we messed up” – it was a few of us in the TechLab, a few of my staff. We got together. We started thinking in terms of user experience, user experience, user experience.

Ryan
Interesting. And the next acronym was DEAL. Again, focussing on the adblock issue.

Cunningham
So DEAL was one of those – we had a couple of different ways to describe it – but somebody initially asked me, before LEAN was announced, before “we messed up” was written, somebody said “Scott, we’ve got this adblocking and we’re seeing adblocking rates rise. What do we do?”. And I said “Well, describe it”. They said “Well, consumers have adblockers, and we’re seeing that there’s some larger discrepancies in the ad delivery. We don’t understand why consumers are installing adblockers”. And my first response was “Well, have you asked them?”. You know, if you’re in the business of —

Ryan
That’s a very smart response.

Cunningham
— Well I’m like “well, guys we’ve all been in the publishing business. It’s time you take your head out of your Google Analytics reports and actually say maybe we should email some of our subscribers, or people we know, or try to figure out how to message them to try to figure out what is the user experience that maybe they’re looking for”. So to me it really wasn’t that complicated.

Where it became complicated was the notion of “how do you ask them” who has an adblocker. And this was where the press conference I did before – and I think the market thought were was a mea culpa based on my press conference of there’s an engineering war between publishing engineers and the adblocking technical engineers. And a lot of people said “this is extortion”. And I got up and said “Yep, this is wrong”. The answer is, this is wrong. The adblocking and the extortion model of it is wrong. At the same time what was infuriating and still is is that the adblocking software doesn’t quote unquote declare itself. So detection of who actually has an adblocker installed became our biggest stumbling block in our conversation with the end user.

And over time we learned from some of the larger publishing members who were out there in public, experimenting, to give us feedback, to understand how it was to message those people, to explain to them the value proposition that they’ve opted in to to free content, ask them to make a decision. And this is where whether or not the business decision was to limit access or – because if you think about it, if you can’t monetize those users who have adblockers that’s just cost going out the door. And if you’re an entity whose a for profit entity, which almost every news publisher is, you have a public service good on certain things – severe weather alerts and these kinds of things – but generally speaking you have to be able to monetize those experiences, otherwise you can’t maintain your journalistic systems. We knew that. So that’s where the DEAL acronym came from.

But, my argument was, it’s not in replace of LEAN. And if you’re not doing the DEAL – if you’re doing the DEAL right you should be offering up the alternative of a LEAN experience, a good user experience. Because if you’re just offering up the DEAL, you know – given the fact that the saturation of publishing on the public Internet is out there, the barrier of entry is really low to be able to produce – those users can find somewhere else to go. So you really should exercise your best customer service as you possibly can.

Ryan
We were in the measurement business for years and years. And we found this steady growth of blocking. And reasonably early on we started to message across hundreds of sites, or try and see what one could do to moderate an adblock user’s behaviour. Essentially what we found was that asking nicely does not work, because as it becomes mainstream I suspect they are viewing adblock software as a convenience – like a remote control. That, again, is not to say that one does not need to fix the experience. Let me ask you what you make of the Facebook approach. I’d say it was mildly controversial when it happened. Back in August last year Facebook announced that they had surveyed their users using IPSOS, a research consultancy, and found a range of problems with the ads that they had. The problems were not severe. It’s fair to say I think that people were not blocking Facebook ads, by and large, as their primary target. They were probably a collateral victim of blocking of far worse sites with far worse ads. But anyway, so Facebook’s approach was “Let’s listen to our users. Let’s fix the problems. And when we’ve fixed the problems we’re going to show the ads in a tamper-proof way”. And after about a week and a half, two weeks of engineering back and forth, that is actually what they managed to do, and the ads are still on the site. What do you make of that as an approach?

Cunningham
I think it’s fine. I mean it goes back to detect, and explain, and understand. It goes to detect, and explain, and understand. I mean you know it goes back to my first response, when somebody said “what do we do about adblocking?”. I said “well have you asked them?” Right? I mean, “well have you had this conversation with your customer?” And one of those is – Facebook was able to reach out, get some data, first party information of those conversations with their consumers, that’s their customer service. “Let me modify my product for you based on your needs”. To me it’s not that complicated. I think for Facebook though to do it is different necessarily then possibly a metro daily news organisation or some other type of content and or social engagement that a product might have. So Facebook’s approach, while fantastic, and while it works around their model, the question becomes, well, can it be applied to others content structures and other organisations that may not enjoy that type of lock in with those end users. And I don’t know the answer for that, except that my feedback to the publishing community was, continue to experiment. Continue to have the conversation with your customer. Any you’ll find out what their, what I call “pricing elasticity of user tolerance” is like. You know?

Ryan
Yeah yeah. I mean it’s something to experiment with. You know, as a vendor in this area we’re offering publishers a range of things. And on that menu essentially is an invitation to experiment. So a publisher comes to us looking for a solution, and they are handed – by the sales side – a list of things that they can move between over time. So there’s the simple stuff, like messaging, which is a first step for many publishers if they have not already done this – but the big people have. I mean that has been done now several years ago. Another option is run the risk of restricting access to content, which, which might work for some of our clients. Now I would limit that – maybe you’d agree – to the big TV players who have exclusive video content. I think if you were back at USA today and someone suggested that we’re going to restrict access to content for a paywall or any other paywall-style thing, you’d have to think long and hard.

And the third option is fix the offer – fix the ads. Keep it simple. We’ve run our own surveys, but a lot of these publishers have as well. And I think they’ve found the same thing as us: around about 77% of people – this is in our last report, and these are adblock users – say they’ll tolerate “rectangles”: pictures of products that don’t jump around the screen and essentially, the LEAN display standard. This format doesn’t seem to annoy people. And this is something I think that is very similar to the Facebook approach. And we’ve been doing this for well over a year, for longer than Facebook has been taking their approach, and there is no negative pushback, which is a remarkable result.

And what I fear is that there has been a dogma building around the denial of access. It reminds me of the defensiveness that you saw around the record industry and MP3s. It’s a comforting thing for the industry that they can claim that they can deny access, but so few publishers have actually been able to run a paywall strategy, it would be odd for them to imagine that they can run a denial of access strategy.

Cunningham
Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. At [inaudible] Group and Digital First Media – as you mentioned John Paton was the CEO – our strategy was to collect dimes, it was to stay in business. And we also did try thirty four paywalls —

Ryan
That’s a lot of paywalls.

Cunningham
–we did a lot. When you think of all the local news properties across the country, we tried thirty four of them. We tested these. And none of them worked.
One grew subscription revenue by 300%, which means I think we went from one to three subscribers. So you know we found this. So local news in some of these smaller towns was not – consumers there didn’t have the appetite to pay for these things. And I actually think from the hypothesis perspective, now we’re seeing it play out with how because our experiments have failed in these things that the editorial in these towns have dropped so much that this is where fake news has gone on the rise. It’s a separate topic, but it’s a fascinating discussion.

You know the, I think, on the DEAL programme “limit and lift” is subjective based on the content that you own. So at USA Today – I can’t speak for them anymore, it’s been a long time there – but clearly the brilliance of USA Today as a brand, and USA.com, was really more about the rich media, visually storytelling package itself, versus the textual content. Except for some of the columns and these types of things. So if you think about that brand versus the larger newsroom of, like, The Wall St. Journal, which already has the subscription wall, these models and the content reflect who they are. And at the end of the day, when I say “limit or lift” on those restrictions, and with those working groups who put together that document, it was very much of a detect, explain to the consumer, understand what they are looking for, understand your own business, and you can choose to limit access, or lift the restrictions based on your comfort zone, the percentage of the blocking, and these types of things. So it’s not a – for me the DEAL wasn’t a “all or not”. It’s very much of a grey area based on how you want to engage your consumer. But again I go back to, if you’re not offering a good user experience, a good customer service, you’re not going to know how to actually play the DEAL. You’re really not. And if you’re not engaging your customer on these things, and having that understanding and that conversation with them, then you’re probably going to have a losing hand.

Ryan
So when you say “limit or lift” you’re saying, essentially, restricting access for some publishers – which is exactly the same thing we say to our clients. So restrict access for some publishers, and don’t restrict access for others, just find the way to show ads but provided the ads aren’t annoying. Make sure that you are conforming to the LEAN standards.

Cunningham
In the LEAN principles, you know, there’s some real binary principles there, like, make sure it’s AdChoices supported, make sure that you can do your best with encryption, take care of the user, know what parties you’re working with programmatically speaking, and the ad payloads that come down. I mean, set your business rules in programmatic. For example, if you basically are working with an SSP exchange, and you say, “you know what, here’s my fill, and by the way our business rule is no in banner video, no audio on”, make sure you’re following up with your SSP exchange on those business rules, because that destroys the customer satisfaction as the same time. So there’s a lot that can be done —

Ryan
Let me ask you then about a big picture of the future. So we’re obsessed with the adblocking issue and where it’s going. And where I think we see this ending up is that more people than not will probably, ultimately, have an adblocker of some form. It might be that it’s built into their browser automatically, as is the case for browsers that aren’t big in the west but are big in Asia-Pacific. So this doesn’t need to be about desktop versus mobile, we think it will apply generally. So I think probably the online population, or at least the blocked web, will become bigger than the web, and the web may actually in that sense go away. It will still be the web, but people will be blocking ads.

But I don’t think that there will be no ads. At the bottom of the market you probably have the equivalent of spam. There’s the arbitrage sites, maybe they are run by bots, maybe they are not. And they are still pumping out the worst of the worst, which is why people still use adblockers – to protect them from that stuff.

And then there will be a tier of premium sites, who will be showing ads – however they do it, whichever vendor they use, or whether they make it in house, is immaterial – but there will be a tier of premium websites who’ll be using tamper-proof blocking.

For the user, I think what this will do is it will bring them back to your early days. It will bring them back to a point where they are protected against the worst stuff – the kind of stuff that would have won you a Cannes Lions Award ten years ago or five years ago for innovation – and yet they are seeing respectful, reasonably subtle boxes with pictures of products in them.

Does that make sense to you? Can you see that happening?

Cunningham
Yes, I can see that happening. And isn’t that market dynamics to a certain extent?

You know, at the end of the day net neutrality opened up a lot of doors in the US, and frankly around the world to a larger extent of creating an open, independent Internet. And when you say that and when you say that there is money involved, I mean where there is money there’s crime. And so what we’re finding here is that TAG and these other structures were never meant to go hunt down criminals. They were meant to create a safety layer of trusted parties. So as consumers adopt new technologies for block — I wouldn’t call it block, I’d call it filtration technologies — over time, you know, what’s going to happen here is that they’re going to have their utility for trust, the industry’s going to have its utilities for trust, and those things end up, you know, organically meeting in the middle. To a large extent.

And you know the frictional barrier for entry – I used to say this – is that the IAB TechLab and the creation of it in the bigger picture of things was meant to reduce friction, to unlock dollars in a digital way across screens. The TAG programme was meant to introduce healthy friction in a way that good transparent parties were exposed, and business transactions could flow in an environment that was safe. And you know I think those parties that go through that and are also offering up good quality user experiences – I would hope in time – to consumers that the trust is manufactured in such a way that the consumers with that type of tools are accessing that content in a way that, frankly, other markets have enjoyed too. I mean if you think about you know television and DVRs and Tivos and these types of things over the years, in the early days it was “Oh my gosh how can we let these things happen”. Now think about it. DVR and timeshifting, you know we have to slow them down on television and we’ll see that this is mobile and other distribution avenues as well.

Ryan
Let me ask you as maybe a final question about trade bodies. You spent a chunk of your career inside one of the big ones. We are in the middle of a terrific set of crises in media and advertising. Brands are deeply unhappy. These are the people who put the money into the system that supports content on the open web. And they are not happy. Publishers are not just unhappy, they are suffering. So those are two big parties that aren’t happy. And I suspect when the realities of GDPR hit, a big chunk of adtech, possibly all of it, won’t be happy either. So there’s an awful lot of work to be done by trade bodies. Are they well shaped to do so?

Cunningham
I think it’s very interesting that if you’re a publisher, the hypothesis goes, that the EU policies and directives coming down could absolutely benefit the publisher in such a way that it allows — the traditional publisher, when I say traditional, maybe not some of your large social platforms Google and Facebook. And let me very explicit there. — the traditional publisher because it forces them to have a conversation with their customer on explicit ownership on transaction of what that data looks like. That helps the traditional publisher, news publisher or entertainment, own that conversation. And if I’m a trade body in representation of those publishers I’m not so opposed – possibly – to the regulations that are happening in Europe.

If I’m a platform like Google or Facebook? Or Adtech? If I’m Google or Facebook I already own that conversation to a large extent of users and their explicit [inaudible]. And I may not want to see these directives go through because then that means all these other publishers are going to own that data too. And so that could be a very interesting dynamic to see.

Then you have all of adtech and martech, and the fight over who owns all the anonymised data and these types of things. If you are a publisher and you own that conversation and you are explaining to them “hey if you want access to this, here are all my suppliers, and then all the parties that will have access to you”. Well guess what? Well then obviously if you’re telling that consumer that its 100 beacons they are going to get versus maybe 10 preferred, that the publisher now enjoys that conversation and that conduit, well then guess what? There’s going to be probably a fight and consolidation that’s going to occur.

And does that mean that it’ll transfix itself over here in the US? It’ll manifest in very unique ways because if I’m USAtoday.com I’m still not really sure do I have to message a European citizen who’s hitting my website. And how do I detect and filter them? So I think there still a lot here to be determined and decided here over the course of time.

But again those trade bodies, if you take a look at some of their membership, whether it’s the agencies or the marketers, clearly I come from the IAB for very specific reasons, but I had [inaudible] membership in my organisations in years passed. Each one of them is going to take a slightly nuanced approach based on what their memberships look like, and how they lobby on behalf of their membership. And quite frankly, as a company in the industry, you’re paying the membership. Your engagement, your dollars, that’s how you’re voting, and you should use your influence in those types of forums to make sure that they are acting on your behalf.

I think your second question was there’s a lot of them. You know the market’s growing. I think we’ll probably see some synergies and partnerships and probably some consolidation in the trade world eventually in time.

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