State AGs Focus on Google’s Monopolistic Control of Digital Ad Marketplace that is Crushing the Journalism Industry

WASHINGTON, DC – State attorneys general representing 48 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have sent a sweeping demand for information from Google as it begins an antitrust investigation into the tech giant. That request reportedly focuses on Google’s dominant position in the digital advertising marketplace, and seeks information on how the “black box” of Google ad marketplace works. 

This comes none too soon as Google, which gobbled up about 37% of all digital ad spending in 2018 all by itself, has siphoned off billions of dollars of advertising revenue that used to go to news publishers. A decade ago, news publishers earned nearly 33% more in advertising revenue than Google. But Google has practically cornered the digital advertising marketplace since then and now pulls in eight times more in advertising revenue on its own than all news publishers combined. This collapse of revenue has created an existential crisis for the journalism industry. If it is not stopped soon, news publishers and the free press will simply disappear.

As Audrey Cooper, the Executive Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, said at a Save Journalism event this summer, “The problem is, you can get an ad that targets you online and to serve it 1,000 times, I make $1.79.  Journalists should get paid more than that.”

 John Stanton, former DC bureau chief for BuzzFeed – who was laid off in January – and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, said: 

Google is now facing antitrust investigations from both the federal government and a nearly nation-wide coalition of states. Finally, regulators are getting their act together to examine how this digital robber baron has become such an advertising behemoth at the expense of news publishers.  

Google’s monopolistic control of the digital advertising marketplace allow them to secretly rig the rules of the game to the advantage of its own products and harms competitors and other advertising-dependant businesses. Hardly anyone outside Google knows how its ad marketplace works. I’m glad the state attorneys general are digging into this black box.

Google’s dominance of the digital advertising marketplace is killing journalism. Hopefully, this investigation is the first step to pave a much-needed and long-overdue road to regulation.