(Glad to see that ad-infested malware distribution site Forbes.Com is top of 
the list.  --rick)

Google reveals sites with ‘failing’ ads, including Forbes, LA Times

August 8, 2017 by Lucia Moses


Publishers that have fretted about Google’s plans to unleash an ad-blocking 
version of Chrome in 2018 can now see if their own sites’ ads will be blocked 
by the tech giant.

On June 1, Google rolled out its Ad Experience Report, a tool it’s using to 
evaluate and score websites based on their ad creative and design. It provides 
screenshots and videos of ads that have been identified as annoying to users, 
such as pop-ups and autoplaying video ads with sound, and “prestitial” ads with 
countdown timers.

So far, Google has identified about 700 sites as warranting corrective action 
out of around 100,000 sites it’s reviewed so far. Half of the roughly 700 got a 
“failing” status and the other half a “warning.” Pop-ups were the most common 
problem Google found, accounting for 96 percent of violations on desktop and 54 
percent on mobile.

Most of these sites are out of the mainstream, such as entertainment sites 
checkthesevideos.com and full-serie.biz. But a couple dozen are a who’s who of 
traditional media. Those listed as failing include Forbes; Tronc-owned Orlando 
Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel and Los Angeles Times; Bauer Xcel Media’s Life & Style 
and In Touch Weekly; The Wrap; Chicago Sun-Times; Tribune Broadcasting’s Fox 13 
Now; and Sporting News.

A similar number of mainstream sites got warnings. They included Kiplinger, 
Gizmodo Media Group’s Lifehacker, The Jerusalem Post, The San Diego 
Union-Tribune, Cox Media Group’s WSB-TV in Atlanta, Tronc’s Baltimore Sun and 
Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, the U.K. Independent, The Daily 
Caller, Reader’s Digest, All You, Smithsonian, New York Daily News, Salt Lake 
Tribune and CBS News.

Google underscored that it hasn’t hashed out all the enforcement details yet. 
One aspect of the plan that may raise alarms with publishers is that Google 
hasn’t ruled out filtering all of a failing site’s ads — not just the offending 
ads. Google also didn’t specify what exactly would lead a site to be labeled 
“failing.” It said “warning” would apply to publishers with “two or more 
violations” but that these sites wouldn’t be blocked.

Once the new version of Chrome with the ad filter launches next year, Google 
said it would pull ads from failing publishers’ sites if they don’t fix the 
violations within 30 days. Google is using the Better Ads Standards set by the 
Coalition for Better Ads, an alliance of heavy-hitters in advertising and media 
such as Unilever, GroupM and The Washington Post that was formed to clean up 
digital advertising. Google is a founding member of the coalition.

The tool is meant to give publishers a way to fix their sites well before 
Google launches its Chrome ad blocker and to give advertisers and their 
representatives a way to avoid having their ads run on sites that have a poor 
user experience. Google also said publishers can use the tool to request a new 
review after they fix their sites and report if they think they were unfairly 
identified as having violations.

Along with Google’s ad blocker news, Apple recently said it would update its 
Safari browser to block video ads that autoplay and stop ad tracking. The 
platform giants’ moves are seen as a response to users and a way to ward off ad 
blocking, but publishers see them as a way to solidify control over the 
platforms’ own digital ad market share, which has grown at the expense of 

Critics also say Google shouldn’t be the arbiter of how publishers monetize 
their sites (while protecting its own revenue by leaving alone its ads on 
YouTube and by paying the popular ad blocker AdBlock Plus to make sure its own 
ads aren’t blocked). No one would argue that users enjoy autoplay video, but 
the concern is that clamping down on it has a disproportionate impact on 
independent publishers. It’s worth noting that many of the flagged sites belong 
to single-title companies or are legacy publishers that are struggling to 
modernize. Tronc’s digital ad revenue has been dwindling. The Daily News is 
said to be losing millions a year.

So far, publishers would seem to have little choice but to do what Google 
wants, though. Ben Gerst, Tronc’s svp of product development, said the company 
was focused on a better experience for users and advertisers and that it was 
working with Google and implementing changes to meet the Coalition’s standards. 
Grant Whitmore, evp of digital at the Daily News, said the paper’s warning 
status was related to an ad tech partner and in-image ad that was supposed to 
meet industry ad standards but was somehow getting flagged, and that the 
publisher was working with Google to resolve it.

A spokesman for Lifehacker, meanwhile, raised the specter of misidentification, 
however, saying: “Our Kinja publishing platform has always taken a very 
audience-centric approach to how we integrate advertising and we believe that 
practice will ultimately benefit our sites ahead of any upcoming changes in the 
market, including the new version of Chrome. We don’t believe Lifehacker.com is 
currently out of step with existing U.S. better ad standards.”

All publishers are embracing the user experience mantra, but getting there is 
another matter. Paul Likins, vp of revenue operations at American Media Inc., 
whose Men’s Fitness and National Enquirer sites were cited for violations, said 
it’s not always clear from Google’s tool what the violation is, making it 
confusing for publishers trying to fix them. And fixing them means replacing 
the revenue generated by offending ads, which isn’t easily done. Google’s 
approach feels “heavy-handed,” but publishers have to comply, lest they risk 
not just repercussions from Google but advertisers, who used to clamor for 
“disruptive” ads, he said.

“We’re all trying to fix this, but we’re moving from a vendor-based business 
model,” he said. “It takes time, money and resources.”

Paul Vincent is founder of Neuranet, a tech company that helps publishers 
comply with Interactive Advertising Bureau specs for fast-loading, non-invasive 
ads. He said an unintended consequence of a company like Google being the 
arbiter of the web is that small publishers may just throw up their hands and 
hand over more of their tech needs to Google, thinking that’ll at least ensure 
their sites won’t be blocked.

“It’s gotten too much power over what’s acceptable,” he said of Google. “When 
it makes these releases, it can have a massive effect across the industry and 
sometimes contributes to its dominance because of the confusion.”
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