Click fraud is an issue because it’s measurable. What about fraud with dead tree media?
There’s a lot of focus on click fraud. Click fraud is admittedly a problem with online ads, especially on content networks where individuals can profit.
But companies that avoid advertising online because of click fraud are fooling themselves. If they advertise in old media a.k.a dead tree media, they’re getting taken to the cleaners every day.
Consider advertising in the newspaper. Advertisers look at the total paid circulation of a newspaper to decide if it’s worth advertising, and are quoted a cost per thousand subscribers price similar to online advertising. But the line between “paid” and “free” is blurred.
One famous example is USA Today, which has deals with hotels to give a copy of the paper to each guest. This is actually considered paid circulation, since guests are able to opt-out of receiving the paper and getting a 75 cent refund on their hotel bill. But how many people actually know that. And how many of these papers land directly in the trash?
My local paper, The Austin American Statesman, has a similar scheme. A few years ago I began subscribing to the Sunday edition. About a year ago I got a call from the paper offering to throw in Saturday for free with no obligation. Then I got a call offering Friday for free, too. Of course I said yes, although many of these papers end up in the recycle bin without being read. My new bills show that I’m subscribing three days a week, although I’m only paying the price of the Sunday paper. This allows the paper to increase its paid circulation on Friday and Saturday even thought it’s not really “paid”.
Advertisers definitely need to manage click fraud, but they also shouldn’t use it as an excuse to advertise in old media rather than online.