A group of 16 companies - including leading ad tech firms, ad agencies and publishers - is trying to help cleanup the murky world of digital advertising.

Last week, the companies called for more visibility into where each dollar is spent in the online advertising supply chain. The committed to standards and practices for sharing data on fees and authenticating content, and urged others to move in the same direction.

The move, industry executives and analysts say, is an effort to bolster digital advertising outside the domains of Google and Facebook, whose ad businesses are being scrutinized by federal and state investigators for anticompetitive behavior.

The group, which includes Oracle and News Corporation, also hopes to apply pressure to digital ad powers to pry open their ''black box'' marketplaces, by disclosing fees and and other information.

Publishers routinely complain that the opaque nature of the digital pipeline is inefficient and expensive, with middlemen taking an outsize share of ad spending. Newspapers and magazine publishers, by some estimates collect only 30 to 40 cents of every dollar spent on their ads online.

''We're trying to create new terms of trade to modernize the business,'' said Joe Zawadzki of Media Math, an ad tech company. ''Seeing where every dollar goes - that doesn't exist today.''

The initiative is led by MediaMath, which makes automated ad-buying and data analysts tools for advertisers and ad agencies. The group's members also include IBM Watson Advertising, White Ops, Havas Media and Business Insider.

The companies are all looking for a path to prosperity in an industry criticized for a lack of transparency, for hidden fees and for rampant ad fraud.

The companies in the initiative, called Source, are trying to demonstrate that a more efficient. more open marketplace can exist.

They want to be a viable alternative to Google and Facebook, which supply tools for ad buyers and sellers and run the auctions within their digital walls.

The tech giants, which are able to offer advertisers huge audiences, increasingly hold sway.

''This is just one effort, but it is trying to address the larger issue of whether the digital advertising business will be more like the open Internet, open to many, or will be dominated by a few walled gardens?'' said Randall Rothenberg, chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is aware of the initiative but is not directly involved.

Nearly all the Source participants, as well as Google and Facebook, are members of the trade group.

''We're trying to crack open the black box and compete on a different playing field than the walled gardens,'' said Mark Zagorski, chief executive of Telaria, a company whose software is used by digital TV services like Hulu and Sling to maximize ad revenue.

The honor and serving of the latest research on The Ecosystem of Online Ads, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Steve Lohr.


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