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Google’s monopoly isn’t a game for newspapers

By Dean Ridings, CEO, America's Newspapers

Almost everyone uses Google in some way or another. It has become part of our lives, and Google has used this to its advantage. Google games the marketplace through search algorithms to its financial gain. The result is an uneven and often unfair playing field for small and local businesses. At a time when local businesses are struggling to overcome the impacts of COVID, the need to be able to compete fairly has never been greater.

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New class action lawsuit claims Google virtually controls every part of digital advertising chain

In addition to the three antitrust lawsuits brought against Google by the Justice Department and state attorneys general, several private publishers also filed suits against Google in December over its advertising and search practices.

John Bussian, a First Amendment lawyer who also handles predatory pricing problems for the newspaper industry, says these latest suits hold special relevance to publishers of America's Newspapers members.  Bussian also serves as a member of the America's Newspapers Legal Affairs and Lobbying Committee.

"Two of the new suits  filed by private publishers, seeking damages over and above the relief sought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general in several states, bear close watching," Bussian said.  "One in particular claims Google virtually controls every part of the digital advertising chain, and that publisher is ready to prove how that makes it impossible to compete."
Sweepstakes Today is one of the companies that is a party to one of those new class action lawsuits.  Through its lawsuit, Sweepstakes Today said it is seeking to "remedy harm to digital publishers that make available and sell space on their website (or applications) to advertisers."

The suit says: "That harm is the direct result of Google’s efforts to expand its occupation and control of the online advertising market to the detriment of publishers, with which it competes to sell ad space. While it is most often thought of as a search engine, through aggressive expansion Google now owns at least 75 different consumer-facing products, many of which are used to serve digital ads. It is, by all accounts, a significant competitor for the sale of digital ad space. One product alone (YouTube) accounts for 20% of all display advertisements sold through the digital ad tech stack."

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Digital Equity
It is very difficult for newspapers to compete against the vast data pool and resulting targeted advertising Facebook offers. Without some change in the model, I fear we will see further declines in the number of journalists and growing numbers of news deserts across the country.

Read this column by Alan Fisco, president of America's Newspapers

Congress is right to pursue stronger regulation of dominant tech platforms, The Seattle Times wrote in an editorial. Saying "Congress is doing a tremendous service by scrutinizing the excessive, harmful market power of online platforms such as Google and Facebook," the paper's editorial board called on Congress to restore fair competition, help sustain the free press and nurture a diversity of news sources for voters and communities across the nation.
Google, Amazon and Qualcomm finance a George Mason University institute teaching a hands-off approach to antitrust regulators and judges.
Reuters reports that Google is upending plans by European media companies to block it from harvesting data about their readers and slash some of its dominance in online advertising.
Level the playing field
The News Media Alliance has released a White Paper, “How Google Abuses Its Position as a Market Dominant Platform to Strong-Arm News Publishers and Hurt Journalism.” The Alliance has submitted the White Paper to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as they proceed with an investigation of Google’s anticompetitive behavior.
Facebook and Google will be forced to share advertising revenue with Australian media companies after Australia's treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, instructed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to develop a mandatory code of conduct for the digital giants amid a steep decline in advertising brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Opinion

Make Facebook and Google pay for local news, just like you

It’s long past time for Google and Facebook to do what newspapers and their subscribers do: Pay for the local news that benefits them so richly.