This summer, Ozy.com, a news site that’s raised more than $35 million in funding from high-profile investors, published a group of articles in an ongoing series about how companies and entrepreneurs are trying to be a positive force in their communities. The content was created as part of a partnership with JPMorgan Chase, whose logo appears on each article.
The stories appeared to be a big hit: Between May and October, the sponsored content ranked among Ozy’s most-viewed articles, according to traffic data from analytics service SimilarWeb.
It’s the kind of success a publisher and brand would celebrate — except that the vast majority of traffic to the articles was in fact fraudulent, according to ad industry standards. Those stories received traffic that was purchased and delivered via a system that automatically loads specific webpages and redirects traffic between participating websites to quickly rack up views without any human action.
Mike Zaneis leads the Trustworthy Accountability Group, an ad industry initiative to fight fraud. He said a publisher is ultimately responsible for what happens on their site, and they need to engage in proper due diligence and monitoring.
“Publishers have a responsibility here to monitor their websites. If you see wild spikes in traffic coming from strange places, or at strange times, you have a responsibility there,” he says.