A practice referred to as “data leakage” is particularly harmful to the publisher/reader relationship. Data leakage occurs when a publisher of a website unknowingly grants an advertiser, or other third party, access to its readers’ information without consent from or benefit to the publisher. An advertiser or an advertising network then uses this information that was gleaned from the publisher’s site to deliver advertising to the reader when they visit another site.
Not only does the publisher miss out on revenue from advertising that is being served to the reader on another site, but the collection of data from readers on a publisher’s site also slows down the loading of content.This has the effect of degrading the experience with the publisher’s website and may lead a reader to download ad-blocking software to improve load times or address privacy concerns with the collection of data.
During a period of time when ad-blocking has increased in popularity – it is estimated that 16% of U.S. Internet users download ad-blocking software – publishers must work harder to earn the trust of their readers, and improve the overall digital experience.
The News Media Alliance believes that many publishers are not aware that third parties are accessing their websites to collect data from readers. Publishers may have granted third parties access to reader information more than a decade ago when web publishing was in its infancy. In October 2013, News Media Alliance distributed a white paper on data leakage to member newspapers providing guidance on how publishers can minimize the leakage of data to third parties. This guidance is relevant today in the context of ad-blocking, since reducing data leakage could also improve the consumer experience of newspaper media on digital platforms.