Is Buyers.json the future standard for buyer and sellers?

Contributor, October 19, 2020

John Clyman, VP Engineering, Marketplace Quality & Security at Rubicon Project, recently published a thought-provoking op-ed on AdExchanger, which called for the industry to adopt a Buyers.json file.

On first thought, what does this actually mean? Who exactly would be introducing this standard and who will be supporting such a standard? Are we able to refer to previous successes with similar industry initiatives that would suggest that this is immediately needed?

At this point, there are plenty of questions but not a lot of answers. Perhaps by analyzing past initiatives of the IAB and the subsequent emergence of Ads.txt and Sellers.json, I can bring structure and clarity to the discussion.

Over the past several years, the IAB has taken the position of standardizing quality issues that have overwhelmed the ad tech industry.

The introduction and industry acceptance of ads.txt has served as a clear recognition that both sides of the industry feel that there is still ample room for technical improvement.

For example, Ads.txt allows publishers and resellers to publicly display the authorized companies permitted to sell their inventory. It is important to note that ads.txt primary intention was to crack down on domain spoofing.

This goal was achieved by providing the sell-side with the ability to certify inventory quality to advertisers.

With Sellers.json, the IAB is aiming to create a safer ecosystem by presenting the SSP / Ad Network version of a Publisher’s ads.txt file.

Sellers.json enables the buyer to confirm the relationship between the Publisher and the SSP. The information available in the ads.txt file and the supply chain object is then publicly cross-checked and confirmed with the information in the Sellers.json file.

Key takeaways about Sellers.json

    • Fosters supply transparency and quality
    • Helps buyers to make informed decisions
    • Helps sellers by making it harder for fraud/bad actors

So, what comes next? The need to constantly verify.

Publisher or App Developer carefully creates content and presents it to the end-user paired with ads on the webpage/App. These decisions allow third-parties to place their ad content and then run code on the original creators site or app.

Circling back to Clyman’s op-ed, the author clearly states why these advertisers need to be watched as well.

Eventually when a Buyers.json file is introduced to the industry, the value of this file will allow for educated decisions to be made by both the Publisher or App developer to whom they want to allow to buy their inventory, and at what price.

This empowerment will potentially protect Publishers while at the same time, allowing for a means to showcase a user journey via their actual engagement, as well as a clear realization of the potential brand success that the website is achieving.

With clearer industry standards adopted by both buy and sell-side alike, Sellers.json, and eventually Buyers.json, will both play major roles enabling Publishers to know who they are working with, and for advertisers and 3rd party businesses alike, to act ethically and honestly during programmatic transactions.

New transparency will allow us to know who we are working with. And for business to conduct good business, it should always be undertaken in an honest manner. After all the labors of love that culminate our day, clearier industry standards adopted by both buy and sell-side alike will hopefully take us to being in the direction we could be in as an industry.

As this is the first initiative of its kind to be suggested, I look forward to hearing more about this debate in how its presence will encourage a better, freer and more open web.