We’re making it easier and a bit safer to manage the ads.txt whitelist for publishers using WordPress with our newest plugin: Ads.txt Manager for WordPress. Site administrators can add and edit their site’s ads.txt file from the WordPress admin interface, eliminating the need to upload a new copy of ads.txt with every change or correction, and applying some validation to prevent simple ads.txt mistakes.
But what is ads.txt?
Digital advertising is growing, and with that growth comes greater risk of domain spoofing and other disruptive actions that interfere with the process of programmatically buying and selling ad space. More digital publishers are taking greater control of their available ad space by clearly defining for ad buyers who is authorized to sell their inventory—so buyers know that the publisher’s inventory is available and valuable—through the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab (IAB)’s Ads.txt Specification.
This ads.txt file is used by digital publishers to prevent unauthorized ad inventory sales and helps buyers trust that they’re getting their money’s worth. If this sounds complicated, it is—especially for those less familiar with the programmatic buying and selling of digital ad space. But it can have major consequences. DigiDay has cited a study that makes this a $3.5 million per day problem. They also have a good overview of ads.txt if you want to dig deeper.
Beyond managing the list of authorized sellers, the plugin performs some basic checks on the contents of the ads.txt file before it saves any changes, helping to prevent publishers from losing advertising revenue as a result of a malformed ads.txt file. In addition to making sure there’s no attempt to add malicious content, the plugin checks the format of the listed domains, and ensures that only variables currently enumerated by the IAB’s specification are used. Because ads.txt is cached for up to 24 hours, a mistake can be especially costly if not caught in advance.
10up is already capturing future enhancements on GitHub for the plugin. We plan to introduce real-time validation and expose revisions so that changes can be reviewed or restored. We’ll also continue to incorporate rapidly emerging innovations, such as ads.cert, which takes the protections of ads.txt further by confirming information passing between the buyer and seller at every stage.