Globe News parent company provided inaccurate information to advertisers for nine months

Gannett, the parent company of the Amarillo Globe News, Lubbock Avalanche Journal, and USA Today, acknowledged this week it had given bad data to advertisers over a nine-month period last year.

"Gannett sincerely regrets inadvertently passing along the incorrect data parameter. This human error was immediately rectified when the Company independently discovered the issue," the company said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The statement comes following the publication of a report in The Wall Street Journal a day earlier alleging the company misled advertisers and misrepresented where on their websites billions of ads had been placed.

According to ad researcher Braeden Vickers, Gannett was involved in something called ad-spoofing, where advertisers believed they were buying an ad on one news site but was instead directed to another.

“Gannett sites use header bidding to run ad auctions on different exchanges when you load a page.  Scripts running in your browser make the requests that trigger those auctions, so it’s possible to inspect the requests your browser sends to see how Gannett is representing their ad inventory,” said Vickers.  “In September 2021 I noticed that the domains and page URLs included in some of those requests didn’t seem to match the actual page being loaded.”

Gannett owns newspapers in several local news markets across the country. Content throughout the USA Today network is frequently shared in the company's local markets and vice versa. 

The company said the incorrect information was given to advertisers "due to a caching error when the company implemented changes to how data is passed from the publisher to the ad exchanges." 

"It is important to note that the revenue associated with third-party programmatic advertising exchanges that potentially used the incorrect data parameter in question was less than $10 million in total over the impacted period," the company said. "Also, none of Gannett’s direct sold digital advertising or direct sold programmatic advertising were affected." 

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