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Wary of Facebook, Publishers Wait on Atlas

As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, took the stage last Monday to unveil the revamped version of its ad-buying platform Atlas, she announced what is widely considered the first credible threat to Google’s display ad dominance.

But something was missing: major publishers that Facebook ultimately wants to list their ad space through the service—and on this point, the company still has a long way to go.

In the months and weeks leading up to the Atlas release, executives from Facebook held ongoing discussions with several publishers including Twitter, Yahoo and Pinterest, according to three people close to the discussions. Facebook executives wanted them to use Atlas to let advertisers track how ads perform on their sites, with the goal of making Atlas a new standard of ads measurement. In some cases, Facebook wanted publishers to join in the announcement.

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As one ad tech executive who was involved in discussions with Facebook over Atlas explained, publishers are concerned about whether the attribution on Atlas is going to be fair, or whether it would favor campaigns run on Facebook over ones run on competing publishers.