Google’s Scheme to Phase Out 3PC Is a Ticking Time Bomb for News Outlets

With at most 18 months before Google eliminates third-party cookies, panic is mounting as the World Wide Web Consortium warns that alternatives are not going to be ready for this rollout. Google’s phasing out third party cookies will leave it, according to two former Department of Justice antitrust officials, “with a virtual monopoly for digital advertising services on the open web.” 

While Google touts privacy as the rationale behind the phase out, that reasoning doesn’t withstand meaningful scrutiny. Google has acknowledged that cookies placed by Google Analytics would be unaffected, meaning Google’s massive data collection will continue unabated and eliminating third-party cookies will only impact its competitors. And while some larger news publishers will be able to rely on first-party data that utilize personally identifiable information like usernames and email addresses, it ultimately seems worse for privacy not better.

Most local news publishers don’t have the option to rely on a large logged in reader-base. Years of exploitation of the ad and browser marketplace by Google has already siphoned off tens of billions in revenue for news publishers. And according to Google’s own study, eliminating third-party cookies would reduce revenue for news publishers by an average of 62%. The coronavirus pandemic has already had a crippling effect on the journalism industry.  Now, Google plans to throw further disruption into the online marketplace in what could be the final nail in the coffin for the local news business.

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

It is like a ticking time bomb. As Google’s phase out of third-party cookies approaches, news publishers are already on the brink, and industry groups are warning of further calamity. The journalism industry has been crushed by tech giants and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated those challenges. And if that wasn’t enough, more disruption is around the corner as Google looks to lock in their monopoly in the ad market at the expense of hard working journalists. If regulators don’t step in to prevent this abuse of market power, it will imperil the existence of the journalism industry.