This is a rather contentious question that people in the online advertising industry ask every once in a while. The issue is quite simple. Ad networks are supposed to be impartial and unbiased and should treat every advertiser and publisher as independent partners. The network is supposed to provide the marketplace / platform / technology to enable publishers to succeed. The problem exists where ad networks own one or more of their publishers, creating a serious conflict of interest between their network and other independent publishers. The only reason why I bring this up is that I was recently having a discussion with a fellow industry associate of mine regarding the recent acquisition by LinkShare (now part of Rakuten) of CauseLoyalty (previously owned by Vesdia Corp.) I don’t know what you all think about this, but it’s hard to expect publishers on an ad-network to respond favorably to an acquisition by the network of a specific publisher. Why would a network acquire a particular publisher unless they were expecting to give that publisher special treatment to give it the leg-up on other publishers in the network, obviously a situation that would anger any other publisher on the network. Many publishers on the LinkShare network were upset when LinkShare acquired CauseLoyalty because the network’s independence was compromised. So the question is whether any of you think that a network can buy a publisher on their network without disturbing the equilibrium between publishers, advertisers and the network. Thoughts welcome.