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Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Newsweek Media Group, the publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times, has allegedly been purchasing low-quality online traffic, a fraudulent move that helped the media company meet the requirements of a major ad buy from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with IBT, BuzzFeed reports, citing a new report released on Thursday by Social Puncher, an ad fraud watchdog.

What (allegedly) happened: Social Puncher's report claims that IBT supplemented a drop in organic search traffic to its website with paid traffic that used redirected traffic from pop-up or pop-under ads from pirate streaming sites. The vast majority of the ads for the CFPB were served this way, making it likely that real people never saw them — or immediately clicked away — while still allowing IBT to meet the buy's traffic requirements.

Newsweek Media Group told BuzzFeed it has purchased audiences from ad networks, which is a “small percentage of traffic on our sites,” but denied any wrongdoing or fraudulent manipulation regarding its advertising contracts.

More problems for Newsweek Media Group, via the BuzzFeed report:

  • "This follows an October report from BuzzFeed News that revealed local content for IBT Australia is produced by writers in the Philippines, and its offices in Sydney were occupied by people who say they do not work for the company."
  • "A former high-ranking IBT editor said the content coming out of the company’s India and Manila operations often involved aggregation of conspiracy theories or dubious stories that were written up because they could get significant traffic."
  • "One current source of frustration and embarrassment for Newsweek staffers is that freelancers struggle to be paid in a timely manner. BuzzFeed News spoke with nine Newsweek contributors who said the company typically takes six months to pay an invoice, and only after constant requests for payment are made."

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney: Americans deserve better than choice of Biden or Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney talks with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans "deserve better than having to choose between" President Biden's "disastrous" policies and former President Trump, "who violated his oath of office."

Why it matters: Cheney made the remarks after CBS' Lesley Stahl put it to her in the interview that Republicans feel that her joining the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot helps "keep the focus on Trump instead of on the shortcomings of the Biden administration."

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shutdown Plan B

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate will hold a futile vote Monday night — just 72 hours before a potential shutdown — on a House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: The bill is going to fail. Period. But then comes Plan B: A "clean" continuing resolution — stripped of language about raising the debt limit — that Democrats spent the past week preparing, Axios is told.