1. Who is John Murphy, what do you do at OpenX, and how do you make us great?
I’m John Murphy, VP of Marketplace Quality at OpenX. I’ve been in the industry almost 17 years going back to goto.com, which became Overture (acquired by Yahoo). I’ve spent my entire career in ad quality and traffic quality related roles.
My job at OpenX is to manage ad quality and traffic quality teams to make sure we provide a fair, transparent marketplace where buyers and sellers can transact with confidence.
OpenX is unique because we have a dedicated quality team. For most companies our size, quality is someone’s second or third job. For us, it’s first and foremost. We made a decision to establish a dedicated market quality team very early on – we do quality and nothing but quality.
What are you doing when you’re not policing the OpenX Marketplace? I used to have a social life, but now I have an eight-month-old at home. So I focus on trying to find time to sleep. In addition to the baby, I have three dogs. So it’s a full house with four small creatures that need constant attention.
2. Can you share your views on Sourced Traffic?
Sourced Traffic is an industry term for traffic that a publisher has paid for. A typical publisher will get traffic from various sources like organic search, links, and social media like Facebook. But it’s not uncommon for publishers to supplement this with paid sources, such as content discovery networks, where the publisher pays a cost per click. When it comes to more established players such as Taboola and Outbrain, the traffic quality tends to be good. But there are a lot of companies out there selling low-quality traffic.
A big part of our vetting process is to make sure that our publishers get the vast majority of their traffic from organic sources. If a publisher gets a substantial part of of their traffic from sourced traffic, we don’t accept them into the exchange.
We check for organic traffic when the site is first evaluated, and we monitor on a regular basis to make sure the traffic breakdown they initially showed remains the same.
In general, we advise publishers to look at sourced traffic carefully and only as a supplement to their organic traffic.
If a publisher has a lot of sourced traffic, they may be prone to quality and malware issues, as well as volatile traffic. Sourced traffic can be good or bad, but there is plenty of bad that won’t perform for the buyer.
For example, if a buyer is evaluating two different sites with a very similar type of audience and one is 70% sourced and one is 70% organic, that will influence a buyer’s habits. We hope to make the market more transparent for buyers, to help them in their buying decisions.
The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) recently introduced their certified against fraud guidelines, which require that direct sellers have to disclose the percentage of sourced traffic on a quarterly basis. OpenX participates in all relevant TAG programs and goes through certified against Fraud and Malware and Piracy programs. We just became co-chairs of the anti-malware working group.
3. What’s next for Marketplace Quality?
We continue to invest heavily in our proprietary Traffic Quality Platform that filters out suspicious traffic (a 4th generation system). This year we’re focusing on a few things:
One, we want to make sure we do as accurate a job as possible of filtering out data center traffic (which is usually non-residential and likely artificially generated traffic) in line with TAG requirements.
And two, we’re continuing to tailor our filtration systems for mobile app and video.
In terms of filtering for traffic quality, we get very few complaints from the DSPs about our traffic, which is a testament to all of the resources we’ve put into this. When we do, we bring in engineering and data scientists to determine if it was non-human or suspicious traffic. In cases where we do find suspicious inventory, we move aggressively to terminate publishers or sites permanently.
The big challenge in filtering for mobile app and video is that the requests don’t come through a traditional browser. With mobile app and video, you’re often getting a server-to-server call from a video player or app, so you’re more reliant on the player and app to give you critical information, which introduces some new risks. In addition to managing those risks, you need to be very good at post-impression analysis to make sure that the traffic was what the publisher said it would be.
We work with several 3rd party vendors including Integral Ad Science, White Ops, and Moat. But it’s important to note that our core platform is based on proprietary, in-house technology.
When I joined OpenX, our team was just was just myself and two analysts, and now we are up to 15 people in marketplace quality operations and growing. Currently, we’re scanning ten billion requests a day. We’re continuing to build on the technology and processes as we scale.