A new report sheds greater light on the companies that place ads on illegal music web sites -- and it has a couple very familiar names, Google and Yahoo!.
A study by the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California released its first monthly report on Wednesday that details the top online ad networks used to place advertisements on illegal download sites. The list was created using the domains with the most takedown requests at Google's Transparency Report.
The report's top ten are:
1. Openx, a Pasadena-based company backed by Accel Partners, Index Ventures and SAP Ventures. It claims to have served over 1 trillion ad impressions in 2011.
2. Google (Including Double Click)
3. Exoclick, a Barcelona-based company that claims to have had 1.8 billion impressions per day in 2011
5. Propeller Ads Media, a UK-based advertising network.
6. Yahoo! (including Right Media, an ad exchange Yahoo! acquired in 2007)
7. Quantcast, a San Francisco-based company backed by Founders Fund, Cisco Systems, Polaris Venture Partners, Revolution Ventures and Allen & Company. [On February 25 Annenberg updated its report to say Quantcast was incorrectly indentified as a top infringing ad network. According to Annenberg Labs, Quantcast undertakes “extensive efforts” to maintain a global block list of infringing sites.]
8. Mediashakers, a Geneva-based global advertising network.
9. Yesads, an ad network by Clicksor that claims to have 900 million ad impressions each month over 100,000 web sites
10. Infolinks, a Palo Alto-based company that claims to create revenue for over 100,000 web sites in 128 countries.
Jonathan Taplin, Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, said in a statement that these illegal download sites divert money from the legitimate marketplace and make it more difficult for artists to make a living. But Taplin stopped short of calling for lawmakers to fix the problem. "We do not believe that government regulation alone is the answer to the piracy problem but rather that the self-regulation of major sectors like the online advertising industry could make it harder for the 'Kim Dotcoms' of the world to unfairly exploit artists."
Billboard reached out to both Google or Yahoo! for comment but had not received responses at press time.
The report reflects the greater awareness of the support system that enables digital piracy. Online ad networks allow illegal download and streaming sites to generate revenue without paying for the content acquired by visitors.
Although the RIAA has backed away from its earlier strategy of pursuing individuals who engage in illegal file sharing, the organization has actively worked with credit card companies and Internet service providers to reduce piracy through cutting off these illegal sites' support systems. The RIAA and other organizations also file takedown notices to have infringing links removed from Google's search engine. Without ad revenue, and without inbound traffic, these sites won't have the means to survive.
The monthly Annenberg list should help raise awareness in the brand community, too. As Professor Taplin stated, self-regulation will be needed for advertising dollars to stop flowing to illegal sites.