Google’s No Good Very Bad Antitrust Week; The Rise Of Frenemy Platforms

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Google’s Matching Black Eyes

Google is reeling from antitrust blows this week.

Europe’s second-highest court slapped Google with a record-breaking $4.1 billion fine on Wednesday, Axios reports. Google can appeal to the EU Court of Justice, but it’s also fighting a multifront war.

And stateside, a US judge ruled that an ad-tech-focused antitrust suit against Google led by the Texas AG can proceed. The suit cites a secret agreement (called Jedi Blue) that Google allegedly made with Facebook in 2018 to undermine header bidding adoption.

District Court Judge Kevin Castel did dismiss one claim, though, writing that “nothing suspicious” led to Google and Facebook’s agreement. But the problem remains that the agreement unfairly disadvantaged Google and Meta’s competitors.

The EU’s $4 billion penalty stems from accusations that Google unlawfully preferences its own apps and services, including Chrome, by requiring smartphone manufacturers to pre-install them on Android devices.

But that’s not all. Google is also dealing with a dual suit in the UK and Dutch courts that seeks $25 billion in damages on behalf of publishers. Why $25 billion? Because that’s allegedly how much revenue publishers have lost because of Google’s ad tech. 


Imagine The Unimaginable

Last week, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel cited TikTok’s “unimaginable” investment in user acquisition that’s helped to buoy TikTok while other social platforms falter.  

It’s a funny POV, considering that Snapchat was a primary beneficiary of TikTok UA bucks, notes Eric Seufert at Mobile Dev Memo. TikTok was Snapchat’s single biggest advertiser account between 2018 and 2019. 

This dynamic isn’t unique to TikTok and Snapchat. Online players must constantly balance tangible revenue with distant competition concerns. 

Amazon was for years the top Google Search advertiser. Now it’s Google’s main challenger for search budgets. 

Netflix brought a huge wave of content licensing revenue to NBCUniversal, Fox and Disney … that is, right up until those studios realized Netflix was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

These concerns must be taken on the half-volley, without the benefit of hindsight. For instance, Dare Obasanjo, a Meta product manager and must-follow news-gatherer on Twitter, poses the question as to whether Twitter should pull the plug on TikTok videos shared on Twitter, where they often go viral. TikTok videos boost engagement – and Twitter’s video ad supply – but are “effectively ads” for TikTok (that watermark was a brilliant innovation) and may prompt users to switch.

Ad-Free, The Way To Be?

There’s been a major shift from ad-supported media to an ad-free mentality over the past five to six years.

Netflix is perhaps the most prominent and recent example. But the era of ad-free publishing in general may have hit a wall. A paywall, if you will.

Acquiring ad-free sports news publisher The Athletic earlier this year helped push The New York Times over the finish line of its 10-million-subscriber goal from three years ago. But just this week the Times announced that it will now serve ads on The Athletic. The Athletic’s value dropped over the course of 2021 and into this year because it was burning through cash and didn’t have enough revenue from subscriptions to invest in the company, writes Simon Owens, a content marketing consultant, in a blog post

“If ads help pay for good journalism, then I can’t fault any publisher for embracing them,” Owens writes. “If The Athletic had embraced them sooner, in fact, it probably could have fetched its initial asking price.”

On the other hand, if The Athletic was ad-supported, would it have gained a million-plus subscribers?

But Wait, There’s More!

Netflix estimates that its ad-supported tier will reach 40 million viewers by late 2023. [WSJ]

Amazon announces new free email marketing capabilities for brands and sellers. [release]

Eyeo says Acceptable Ads, the ad-blocker monetization program, now reaches 250 million people. [release]

PubMatic is acquiring the demand-side ad tech and analytics startup Martin. [release]

Data protection’s biggest secret: 1 in 10 employees will leak IP data. [Venture Beat]

Why McKinsey sees “commerce media” as the go-to media and marketing channel. [Digiday]

You’re Hired!

MGID bolsters its leadership team with two publisher-focused hires. [release]

Future appoints Claire Blunt as chief operating officer. [release]

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