SCBA President: “A Responsibility to the Truth”


Thom CallahanSouthern California Broadcasters Association President Thom Callahan reveals the fraudulent and unregulated world of non-Radio digital display and video advertising in his latest blog post entitled, “A Responsibility to the Truth.” In it, he showcases a major national study that claims 61.5% of all web traffic is non-human or Bot traffic, while 48.1% of all video ads are not heard or seen by humans:

A Responsibility to the Truth

It seems that digital advertising has consumed the thought process and the budgets of so many advertisers and their agencies these days. Spending on digital advertising, which includes social media, search engines, websites, and mobile devices, is expected to rise 17% to $50 billion in the U.S. in 2014. That’s 28% of all U.S. Ad spending this year. In fact, one major client we know is being forced by its manufacturer to spend 25% of their annual budget in digital advertising. The stampede to participate in digital advertising and throw serious money at anything labeled “digital” has somehow ignored a critical basic question; who is this audience they are trying to reach and does it really exist?

The rush to be attached someway or somehow to the Internet because the “experts” have told our clients to has somehow suspended our collective responsibility to understanding the truth about web traffic and the disturbing and downright dishonest use of who and what is on the web and why.

And why should Radio Care about this? Well for openers, your client’s total budget, which includes Radio, has been on average, reduced in 2014 by at least 25%.

Do I have your attention now?

I promise not to get too “tech-geek” with you, but there are some basic new facts about search engines and websites that we in Radio, and our clients, need to know. If we are really interested in the success of our clients, then understanding other media is essential. It is critical that we all recognize the waste and fraud surrounding digital advertising, the search engines, and fictitious websites today.

According to, a major web security firm based in Redlands, CA, in their latest annual report on web traffic security, some shocking new information is revealed on web traffic:

•           61.5% of all web traffic is NON-HUMAN or Bot traffic as it’s called.

•           38.5% of all web traffic is Human.

•           48.1% of all video ads are not heard or seen by humans.

Bot traffic, or non-human site visitors, blatantly cheat advertisers because marketers pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting web pages, regardless if users are human or not.

Dishonest people create sites with non-existent traffic and then charge advertisers through a series of middle men who aggregate ad space from a lot of web sites and then resell the space for most web publishers.

These dishonest people build websites to host only ads, and no content. The phony websites are then fed directly into various ad exchanges using fake and reputable domains. The ad inventory is then sold from these fake domains and is bought by well-known advertisers, who will never know that 61.5% of their ads will never be seen by humans!

These dishonest site builders regularly deceive the ad exchanges by simply hosting a collection of links to certain content, but when one clicks on these links, you are taken off the site to other locations.

So where is the transparency in digital advertising?

That’s the issue… there is none.

The sheer size and scope of this fraudulent behavior is costing advertisers over $6 billion a year in wasted advertising to these non-human sites, according to the ad fraud detection firm, White Ops.

Bots do more damage than just steal advertiser dollars!

Bots create all sorts of evil for users and legitimate websites such as:

•           Stealing content and duplicating a site look, theft of email addresses for spam purposes

•           Scrapers target anyone including travel sites, news sites, e-stores, and forums

•           Data and credit card theft

•           Turning legit websites into “Link Farms” causing search engine “blacklisting”

•           Website/Server hijacking

•           Posting of Malware/phishing links that can harm legitimate website visitors

To all advertisers who have been unknowingly a victim of fraudulent digital advertising, please consider the following:

•           There are no bots in Radio.

Our audiences are real, human, and active. While there are many pretenders calling themselves Radio, only real Radio can be heard on the AM/FM bands in your car, on your mobile device, and your PC. Radio is also governed by the FCC to ensure community needs, standards, and concerns are always addressed and acted upon. We are also in real time without delays, DVRs, etc.

•           Our listeners can be measured and proven.

Unlike any other media, our standards for reporting actual listeners are the highest in media. In fact, all other media is measured on broad, non-specific tune in, clicks, and/or activation. It does not measure actual time spent watching or listening. If the device is on, it’s counted. Only Radio is held to such high standards of real time, real listening, and by daypart.

•           Radio is fully accountable.

From samples of your Radio commercial and where it aired, to your spot times for a full week, to your notarized affidavit of performance to your detailed spot invoices, Radio provides the ultimate client experience in accountability and transparency.

•           Radio delivers real customers.

Unlike the gross impressions model, which we now know is flawed and dishonest in the Digital space, Radio delivers actual human being customers. Your customers, if you want them.

•           Radio has honest, defined, digital platforms.

Advertisers can now complement and supplement their important Radio investment with the honest digital assets found only from our member Radio stations. Our on air listeners are also our online listeners. You can invest in digital advertising using the safe and transparent digital assets fully controlled by Radio.

Radio’s integrity, transparency, and most of all, its effectiveness, is well-documented by the advertising community. For almost 90 years!

Until the digital industry can fully police its own scandalous and dishonest measurement system, and bring basic integrity to the internet, we urge advertisers to suspend their investment in this space and return to the trustworthy and reliable media called Radio.

It’s not too late to adjust your budgets now as we head into the last 6 months of 2014; a year that advertisers can finally say yes to honest advertising that can be documented thoroughly.

Your budgets and your business should demand complete transparency from all media.

The truth will set us all free.

Thom Callahan

Southern California Broadcasters Association

July 1, 2014