Report: Google Antitrust Probe Focuses On Publisher Ad-Tech

The Department of Justice has asked several publishers, including Condé Nast, Gannett, News Corp, The New York Times and Nexstar, about how Google operates in the digital advertising market as part of a broader antitrust probe, The Wall Street Journal reportedyesterday.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Google has abused its market power to undercut other media platforms, according to the WSJ, which confirmed some of the details from a story last month by Bloomberg News.

The authorities are most interested in Google's recent actions that may have helped to solidify its market dominance in digital media. Google in 2016 started requiring advertisers to use its software to buy ad space on YouTube, the video platform with more than 2.26 billion users worldwide.



Google also integrated its ad server, a popular tool that website publishers use to sell ad space, with its ad exchange, the world's biggest digital ad marketplace. The company's ad-tech platforms have the power to control the monetization of digital content, a claim that Google has refuted.

Regulators may compel the company to undo its 2008 acquisition of DoubleClick, which had developed the technology to bring publishers and media buyers together in online auctions of ad space.<

That business may be less meaningful to Google, which this week revealed that its YouTube revenue jumped 36% to $15.1 billion last year, a significant growth engine for the company, as audiences shift their video consumption to digital media.<

If Google is required to divest the DoubleClick business, publishers will still have to push for more transparency in how their ad space is auctioned through online exchanges. The process of selling ads through "waterfalling" can hurt publishers' ability to sell their ad inventories for the best price. Header bidding offers the possibility of improvement, but only if Google isn't tipping the scales in its favor.

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