Save Journalism Project’s In-Depth Look to Project Bernanke

Google’s ad monopoly is harming the journalism industry – with critical local newsrooms being hit the hardest.  Project Bernanke exposes how.  

  • For context, in 2007, all U.S. newspapers pulled in $45.4 billion in ad revenue, according to figures compiled by the Pew Charitable Trust. That same year, Google’s total ad revenue was $16.4 billion. Fast forward to today, and Google recently reported its fourth quarter revenue figures for 2020, generating $46.2 billion in advertising revenue over the last three months of the year. That massive sum puts Google’s fourth quarter 2020 ad revenue at roughly the same level as all U.S. newspapers’ ad revenue for 2016, 2017, and 2018 combined. 

  • Last week, The Wall Street Journal broke news that, according to an antitrust lawsuit, Google “operated a secret program that used data from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors.” The lawsuit was filed by the state of Texas and the U.S. Dept of Justice and aims to prove that Google is running a monopoly of digital ads – using private data to harm both industry competitors and publishers. The secret program, Project Bernanke, raked in millions of dollars each year for Google, while news outlets around the country continued to see their ad revenue diminished, leading to massive layoffs in newsrooms across the country.
  • The collapse of ad revenue has resulted in an unprecedented contraction of the journalism industry in the United States. More than 2,000 newspapers have closed leaving more than 1,000 communities across the United States without a local newspaper and U.S. newspapers have shed half their workforce since 2008. And this is not just an American phenomenon, as local newspapers shut down across North America, Australia, and Europe. 

  • In the days after the WSJ exposed Project Bernanke, The Daily Mail also sued Google over unfair advertising practices, spotlighting the harm Google causes big and small news publishers due to its monopoly control of the digital advertising business, online search, and web browsing markets. Google has long abused its monopoly power – rigging ad prices against news publishers to reduce their revenue, punishing publishers that don’t use Google products,  and favoring their own products – to take further hold of the market, with deleterious effects on how Americans can get their news.
  • As more details leak out about Google’s monopolistic digital ad practices, it’s clear we’re at a tipping point. Lawmakers must act to regulate and reverse Google’s monopoly in the digital ad market. By creating a closed market revolving around opaque and illegal business practices, Google is pushing out competitors and pushing more newsrooms toward layoffs and closures – threatening the collapse of local news altogether.