A Conversation about Ads.txt with Sherzod Rizaev, Global Head of Commercial Operations at Minute Media
It brings us great pleasure to present a recent interview we conducted with Sherzod Rizaev, Global Head of Commerical Operations at Minute Media. Total Media has worked as programmatic partners with Mr Rizaev and Minute Media since 2015. Minute Media’s open platform delivers tech-driven content, advertising, and product experiences for global communities, publishers and brands. Its 5 international newsrooms and 4 video studios publish 1000 pieces of original content in 11 languages each day across its three brands (90min, 12UP and DBLTAP) as well to premium publishers and platform partners including Sports Illustrated, Univision, Oath, Time Inc, ProSieben, and EI.
We recently asked Mr Rizaev about his thoughts and experiences with Ads.txt and how Minute Media has adjusted and responded thus far to Ads.txt.
Why did you decide to add Ads.txt to your website?
First, the choice to add Ads.txt follows Google’s leadership and industry focus on the subject. In addition to working with Google, we also put our inventory on other multiple platforms which follow Google’s lead in the industry. Primarily, an initiative supported by Google or the IAB will always be strongly considered and most likely implemented by our team since Google is one of our website’s primary revenue generators.
Second, Ads.txt gives us a better idea of who is monetising our inventory and on which platforms. For example, if I’m working with a network and they are giving me six different network IDs files, I know for sure now how they are monetising my inventory. Through Ads.txt, I see how much unique demand these providers possess. Supporting the Ads.txt initiative is proving to be crucial for us for figuring out how our impressions are being mapped out onto the global exchanges.
Third, there are some players on our .txt file that I’ve never heard of, specifically some of the exchanges, especially on the video front. We see this as an opportunity to check all of our vendors and to leave no stone unturned at this stage since video is a primary revenue stream of ours.
These three reasons combined: Google’s leadership of the initiative, finding out who is monetising our inventory, and which other opportunities and partners are out there for us to approach directly, convinced us to implement Ads.txt onto our website.
Have you experienced any issues implementing and setting-up Ads.txt? What has been the impact Ads.txt has had on your business?
No, we have not experienced any issues with Ads.txt because we have an excellent development team that have prepared themselves and have covered the set-up and management of the Ads.txt file comprehensively.
Have you been approached by 3rd parties who have said that they have a previous relationship with your website yet you do not recognise who they are?
Every single day. Every day we receive a few emails from vendors that are saying, “here is our Ads.txt ID, please add it to your Ads.txt file, and you will generate $1M overnight.” We see that particular vendors will send the same email to us every day until we either respond or make a decision about them. In the meantime, we’re not doing anything with these emails.
As I said earlier, one of the primary reasons we added Ads.txt was to figure out who we are working with, where is our inventory being exchanged and to identify the vendors that I recognise. Ads.txt allows me to work with my approved vendors directly, to work just with them, rather than these unknown 3rd party vendors who are reaching out to us every day.
Unless we have the open channels to generate revenue right now and we have agreed on the rates with them, and we have been working with them either on a pass by basis or a header or however we have previously worked with them, we won’t add them to our Ads.txt file.
Has the presence of Ads.txt changed your relationship with your approved partners?
The presence of Ads.txt has helped us to clarify who we are working with. For example let’s say that network XYZ has given us access to six different networks, each of their unique reseller IDs through the relationship. Now, I know that they are taking the impression and applying some tag or programmatic floor to monetise the inventory for us. We’re already working with those partners, and we have already seen the inventory on the exchanges.
Now I ask myself, do I need network XYZ? Yes, I believe that we have more control to decide. But that feeling currently leads to the need to conclude whether we want to work with these guys or not because we have more information in which to judge them and their activities.
In a conversation that I recently had with the IAB, a particular question kept popping up in my mind, “How many vendors are too many?” Looking forward to January 1, we are already looking to clean out a lot of the happenings within our ecosystem within our control. We primarily want to analyse our system and find the ones that we wish to have our inventory monetised by.
We have taken the perspective as we are crafting our Ads.txt list to ask ourselves, how many local partners do we need? How many global partners do we need to serve 80-100M unique visitors?
We’re sure that we are going to need a lot of partners to serve our audiences. It might be that we should have partners that are strong in specific local markets versus our global partners that are strong in our top ten markets.
What are your expectations/predictions for Ads.txt going forward?
It’s still yet to be seen, but I am optimistic about Ads.txt for 2018. Looking at the industry itself, the types of technologies that we want to employ, the likes of Ads.txt, and partners like Google, we believe that unique technologies that will benefit our website will arrive in the coming year.
As of today, I believe that it is still early to accurately judge the impact Ads.txt has had on our business and revenue. Though we have seen an impact from our third-party publishers that have seen a dip in their income over the last month. For us, we were ready when Ads.txt launched, and we have been fortunate to have not seen a drop in our revenue. It remains to be seen whether this stabilisation of our revenue connects to whether Ads.txt is working or whether there is no connection at all.
My prediction is that Ads.txt is going to clear out the 3rd party sellers that have been gaming the system up until now. Ads.txt will force specific companies in the industry to go bust. The business sitting in the middle making money on the buying, selling and arbitrage, they will be the ones that will suffer. Though, it’s only a matter of time before third-parties find a way to trade again in different ways because the impressions are often sold many times over in exchanges.
I think it is a positive development that the system will be cleaned for the benefit of the publisher as well as the advertiser. If Ads.txt works in clearing out the system more efficiently, I believe that it is going to add quick ad returns since our approved vendors who buy from us are responding directly to us with their creatives. In addition to the absence of the arbitrage of our inventory, I believe that Ads.txt will continue to diminish the chances for us to being misrepresented to the advertiser. In the end, we will deliver much better results for advertisers.
Interview conducted by Brian Blondy, December 2017.
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