Leveraging Google's Publisher-specific IDs to Detect Website Administration

Digital advertising is the most popular way for content monetization on the Internet. Publishers spawn new websites, and older ones change hands with the sole purpose of monetizing user traffic. In this ever-evolving ecosystem, it is challenging to effectively answer questions such as: Which entities monetize what websites? What categories of websites does an average entity typically monetize on and how diverse are these websites? How has this website administration ecosystem changed across time? In this paper, we propose a novel, graph-based methodology to detect administration of websites on the Web, by exploiting the ad-related publisher-specific IDs. We apply our methodology across the top 1 million websites and study the characteristics of the created graphs of website administration. Our findings show that approximately 90 associated each with a single publisher, and that small publishers tend to manage less popular websites. We perform a historical analysis of up to 8 million websites, and find a new, constantly rising number of (intermediary) publishers that control and monetize traffic from hundreds of websites, seeking a share of the ad-market pie. We also observe that over time, websites tend to move from big to smaller administrators.


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