Fake news, fake reviews and fake views

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Online media today comes with battle scars. Users, media platforms and advertisers are feeling like no one is listening to their needs and values. Fake news, fake reviews, and fakes views – who’s to blame for this lack of authenticity?

Did advertisers break the system? That might be the wrong question. 

It seems today that in the landscape of media, users, publishers and advertisers are all stakeholders that struggle with the lack of transparency and authenticity between them. Users sit in between media platforms and advertisers. Media platforms sit in between users and advertisers. And, advertisers sit in between users and media platforms. 

All three overlap, each fiercely determined to be heard. 

Bottom line is that fake hurts. Everyone.

That said, I’d like to focus on how fake views hurt advertisers. I don’t think this is because advertisers are inherently better—it’s simply because I believe advertisers are part of our media interactions and part of the discussion. I think ad agencies and advertisers are creative minds that want to connect with their key markets and see their products thrive – who doesn’t?

Fake Views Hurt Advertisers

An article published by AdAge reported that ad fraud costs advertisers at least $7.2 billion in 2016 alone. Since then, losses incurred by advertisers due to ad fraud continues to increase. These fraudulent views are often times perpetuated by bots that simulate people clicking on digital ads. According to a study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers and White Ops, these robots account for a quarter of all views of video advertisements. In addition to non-human views, fake views can also include instances in which videos are loaded in multiple windows in order to avoid watching advertisements.

Views and review? Not a problem. We need to start the discussion on the authenticity of views, as this is what is critical when it comes to advertising. Losses incurred by ad fraud and bots translates to wasted awareness and consideration.

In other words, if a ‘bot’ views an ad or an ad is loaded without someone truly watching it, the opportunity to make a genuine impression that might lead to a sale no longer exists.

Views as a currency

In our digital world, views on video-sharing platforms have become their own form of currency, with everyone vying for the attention of consumers in increasingly crowded markets.

“If we think of attention as a resource or even a kind of currency, we must allow that it is always, necessarily, being ‘spent.’ There is no saving it for later. The question is always, what shall I pay attention to?” –  Tim Wu, author The Attention Merchants

Advertisers understand that capturing impressions is important— and have been monetizing viewership to capitalize on them. But this has led to users gaming the system by creating fake views as a strategy to increase their chances of monetization. Fake views and bots are now incurring grave losses for digital advertisers.

Where does blockchain step in?

In a blockchain-based world, contenders are shifting the media platforms, where attention won’t be given for granted. Verasity, for instance, is a video sharing platform where attention and participation are rewarded and earned. Verasity is shifting the video-sharing platform to inclusion, which is a way of thinking holistically about the impact of viewers, advertisers and content creators that should permeate their engagement. 

I think Verasity’s efforts are going to have positive long-term ripple effects within the history of online video. 

Advertisers will have the opportunity to engage in a meaningful way to warrant engagement, creating special relationships with their communities. 

Most of us are now familiar with the fact that blockchain sits in the center of the transparency. But there’s also another effect at play, and that’s authenticity. To complete the problem, we will also need to implement blockchain-based protocols and technologies that seek to upend the authenticity of advertising. Here is one of the early blockchain protocols:

Proof-of-View (POV™)

Advertisements seen on video-sharing platforms are currently being infected by fake views and bots, posing a threat to advertising. The Proof-of-View(POV™) protocol is a key component in the strategy of Verasity. POV™ was developed with the aim of breaking ad fraud and rebuilding trust by securely verifying content consumption on the video-sharing platform. For every dollar invested in an advertisement on Verasity, the POV™ protocol will be applied to stop fake views, assisting digital advertisers who rely on accurate impression reports to determine the success of their ad campaign.

POV™ will use a variety of methods to prevent fake views from being counted. First, a single user will not be able to make multiple views at once. By restricting viewers from loading and streaming multiple videos in parallel, the POV™ protocol will monitor whether the video player is viewable, authenticating that no other videos are simultaneously playing in the background. Therefore, views that are generated when the player is not available will be deemed inauthentic and the view will not be verified.

POV™ will detect bots

Though many of these checkpoints target user behaviour on the platform, they can also detect suspicious behaviour and views generated by bots. Suspicious behaviour, such as repeated views by a single user over a specific period of time, will require intermittent manual checks by the viewer. Views made by bots will be caught by verifying that content is streamed in the browser along with randomly requiring information to be provided about the current frame in use. Both of these will work to reduce the number of fake views by authenticating that a person, not a robot, is viewing the content. In addition, blockchain technology will make the data collected by PoV publicly auditable and transparent, while the data regarding the views themselves will be anonymized for viewers’ privacy.

Protocols like Proof-of-view™ are a groundbreaking blockchain strategy that digital advertisers ought to look forward to. Proof-of-View was built to reduce the number of fake views by addressing some of the most common problems plaguing the digital advertising industry today. By using Verasity’s video-sharing platform that implement this protocol, digital advertisers can economize their budgets by ensuring that ads are reaching their target customers rather than bots.

In my opinion, the future needs this. The more globalized we are, the more the concept of traceable and transparent actions will be welcomed with open arms, especially in the field of advertisement.