In a recent report from ChangeAdvertising.org, it’s been revealed that around 26% of ads found on the top 50 news sites across the web lead to trashy clickbait websites.
ChangeAdvertising.org is a new non-profit organisation whose goal is to help consumers make better decisions about brands, advertisers, and online/mobile publishers. They also hope to encourage discussions between people and advertising and publishing industries.
This study, which took place during October 14 through to October 18, focused on the top 50 news sites (according to the New York Times), 82% of which used “content ads” from the likes of Taboola, Outbrain, or similar vendors.
Interestingly, the study found that of these links, only 46% went to legitimate advertisers. Where things get really fishy is that 26% of these links lead to trashy clickbait sites with 89% of these sites being anonymously-registered.
“Many of the websites that these ads directed to, were not well-known to us. We thus looked at WHOIS information to help determine who it is that is operating said website. What we found there was a very high proportion of clickbait domains having anonymous registrations (using companies like Domains by Proxy, it means it is not easy for a consumer to see who the company or individual operating a certain website).”
ChangeAdvertising.org went a little deeper looking at whether these websites offered native advertising disclosures, and as you’d expect found that many, if not most of them violate the FTC’s disclosure guidelines.
The main problem here however is that a lot of these clickbait-fuelled websites open up a wormhole to more of these sites, of which get a little more questionable. From one site, you’re lead to another through undisclosed native ads, which then have less acceptable advertising disclosures and offer ads with sexually suggestive and even malware-ridden content.
“This certainly calls into question the monetary relationship between these vendors and the website operators, and whether they are directly related in some way or even wholly-owned by some of the vendors,” said ChangeAdvertising.org.
The report goes into much greater detail about the types of advertisements and which of the 50 websites studied offer more ads over others. It’s definitely an interesting read, and goes to show which sites care more for your ad clicks, than your safety online.