Commentary

Shots Fired As Publishers Tell Government To Tackle The Duopoly

The next few months will see whether data regulators in London and Dublin believe Google and the RTB industry treat the public's privacy respectfully.

But then, and possibly straight afterward,  the discussion will turn to whether the duopoly of Google and Facebook treat publishers fairly. Do they abuse their dominance or is the digital advertising industry working in a fair and competitive fashion. Are Google and Facebook filling their pockets with ill-gotten gains while the publishers who create the content people consume, prompting the demand for adverts, are left high and dry.

Next July is the month to look out for the Competition and Markets Authority report into the digital advertising industry -- and it could be massive. If it decides the duopoly is using its power to enrich itself against the better interests of the wider industry, there could be fireworks and calls for an overhaul of how digital advertising operates. There could even be a move to split up Google, perhaps to curtail the pooling together of data across Facebook's huge data empire.

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It is important because within just three years, it is estimated the duopoly will account for nearly two in three of every ad pound invested in digital advertising.

The first shots have been fired now that the public consultation period has ended. Daily Mail owner DMG Media has laid in to the duopoly for running opaque practices that see volumes increase, yet without a rise in their coffers.

The newspaper group is also angry that its traffic from Google's search engine has as much as halved after an algorithm change. It is claiming that if nothing is done, it is hard to see how publishers can survive.

Channel 4 has also come out fighting, saying that Google is just too huge to enter into any negotiation about -- and thus it is unable to improve a revenue share that it deems to be too low to reward a media owner going out and making public service broadcast content. 

So, Google and Facebook have another regulatory bump in the road coming up next July. Before then, Google may well have had unwelcome news from data watchdogs in London and Dublin regarding the use of personally identifiable information being shared too widely in the RTB process that powers programmatic advertising. 

It will then not be a question of how well they respect user privacy, but how well they embrace competition in the digital marketing industry.

Do they grind publishers down on terms and conditions or is competition flourishing?

I'm sure there are many strong opinions here. I know publishers who agree with the Daily Mail and Channel 4 here, but I also know those who consider the cost of earning traffic and advertising via the duopoly as a simply the price of using someone else's channel.

We'll find out what they CMA thinks next July. 

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