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Because so much advertising and content is automatically distributed, the digital supply chain has become confusing and messy, lending itself to more ad fraud, malware, extremist content and fake news. Here's a look at how much more complicated the system has gotten over the past ten years:

Expand chart
Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: Digital advertising has become an unpleasant experience for nearly everyone involved:

  • For publishers: It's much harder to profit when Google and Facebook dominate the digital ad market, and when so many new ad tech players are separating them from receiving ad dollars directly.
  • For advertisers: It's easy for ads to end up on sites that host bad content or for ads to be viewed by bots instead of people
  • For consumers: The Internet has become so saturated with pesky automated ads that it's easier to either install an ad blocker or avoid some websites altogether.

What's the solution? There are a few ideas being tossed around:

  • Start over: Several premium publishers (CBS, ABC, Vox, etc.) are teaming up to create a private marketplace where they can recreate a cleaner version of the system through a non-profit called TrustX.
  • Build a new network: Other publishers have discussed using Blockchain (the technology behind Bitcoin) to create their own transparent ad networks.
  • Create financial incentives: Speaking at an advertising law policy conference in Washington last week, former Subway CMO Tony Pace said the industry should place more importance on brand value as a part of financial reporting to incentivize everyone to clean up the system.
  • Cut the crap: There's a movement by publishers to only run ads on trusted websites, which could incentivize other sites to clean up their content and stop publishing click-bait. Chase, for example, cut the number of sites they advertise on by 99% from 400,000 to 5,000 and got the same results.

Go deeper

24 mins ago - Technology

Ex-N.Y. Post digital chief files lawsuit alleging sexual harassment

Richard B. Levine) (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

Former New York Post editor Michelle Gotthelf is suing her former employer, its parent company News Corp. and two editors, alleging she was reprimanded after complaining to senior executives that she was sexually harassed by retired N.Y. Post editor-in-chief Col Allan. The N.Y. Post issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: "I felt that I owed it to myself and I owed it to the news organization and the people who answered to me," Gotthelf, who was a long time editor at the N.Y. Post, told Axios in an interview.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker