The -30-: The End of the News with Digital Ad Expert Joshua Koran on Dire State of News Industry and Digital Market Amid Covid-19

In his most recent podcast episode of The -30-: The End of the News, John Stanton, co-founder of the Save Journalism Project and laid-off former D.C. Bureau Chief at BuzzFeed was joined by Joshua Koran, Head of Innovation Labs at Zeta Global, to discuss the current digital ad marketplace, how dominant players like Google can “play by a different set of rules,” and how Google will continue to engage in the same kinds of data collection and measurement it claims harms the privacy of consumers when others do it.  

As newsrooms continue to provide essential coverage on the course of the coronavirus pandemic, it is resulting in a surge in traffic to their websites but it is not creating additional revenue. Dominated by big tech, this broken market has ceased to benefit the news publishers providing accurate and quality reporting. It instead benefits giant platforms like Google who have already disrupted the marketplace, by siphoning off tens of billions in ad revenue from the media. 

To compound the crisis for news publishers, Google plans to phase out third-party cookies. In its own study conducted in 2019, Google found that eliminating third-party cookies would reduce digital ad revenue for news publishers by 62%. Google claims this is about consumer privacy, but it will continue to collect the same information on web users. Even with the further devastation of the journalism industry brought on by coronavirus, Google is pressing ahead with this change, which could be the final nail in the coffin for many news outlets.

Joshua Koran, Head of Innovation Labs at Zeta Global, said, “There are economies of scale which are part of the challenge we’ve recently seen where the more control you have, the more of these pieces in this chain [of the digital ad market] you control, you may be able to play by different rules… When DoubleClick was acquired by Google, they favored their own real time bidding platform, their own DSP, over the competitive marketplace.”  

John Stanton, Save Journalism Project co-founder, said, “Pulling back the curtain on the digital ad marketplace allows us to see how Google and Facebook are able to exploit the marketplace for their own benefit. Google is playing on justifiable public concerns about privacy to phase out third-party cookies, a move that will further entrench its dominance while not improving consumer privacy in any meaningful way. This change will be devastating for many news outlets already battered by a decade of competition with the tech giants and the economic carnage of coronavirus.”