Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the US and the owner of USA Today and more than 200 local publications, has filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech giant of dominating the online advertising market and harming publishers and consumers.
The lawsuit, filed in a New York federal court on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, alleges that Google and its parent company Alphabet have unlawfully acquired and maintained monopolies on the advertising technology tools that publishers and advertisers use to buy and sell online ads.
According to the lawsuit, Google controls every aspect of the online ad ecosystem, from the tools that publishers use to sell their ad space, to the tools that advertisers use to bid for it, to the tools that measure the performance and effectiveness of the ads.
By controlling these tools, Google can manipulate the prices and outcomes of online ad auctions in its favor, extracting more revenue from advertisers and paying less to publishers. The lawsuit claims that Google’s conduct has contributed to the decline of local news and journalism, as well as reduced innovation and consumer choice in the online ad market.
Gannett’s CEO Michael Reed said in a statement that Google’s dominance in the online advertising industry has come “at the expense of publishers, readers and everyone else.”
“Digital advertising is the lifeblood of the online economy,” Reed said. “Without free and fair competition for digital ad space, publishers cannot invest in their newsrooms.”
Google’s vice president of global ads Dan Taylor denied the allegations and said that Gannett’s claims are “simply wrong.”
He said that publishers have many options to choose from when it comes to using advertising technology to monetize their content, and that Gannett itself uses dozens of competing ad services, including Google Ad Manager.
He also said that when publishers choose to use Google’s tools, they keep the vast majority of revenue.
“We’ll show the court how our advertising products benefit publishers and help them fund their content online,” Taylor said.
The lawsuit from Gannett adds to the growing legal pressure on Google over its advertising business, which accounts for nearly 80% of Alphabet’s revenue and profit.
Google is facing multiple antitrust lawsuits in the US and the EU over its alleged anticompetitive practices in various aspects of its business, including search, Android, YouTube and ads.
On June 14, 2023, the EU accused Google of abusing its dominant position in the online ad market by restricting access to data and favoring its own services over rivals.
The EU also said that Google might have to sell some of its ad technology assets as a remedy.
In December 2022, a group of US states led by Texas sued Google for allegedly colluding with Facebook to rig online ad auctions and harm competition.
In October 2022, another group of US states joined a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2021 that accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising.
Google has denied all these charges and said that it operates in a highly competitive market that benefits consumers and businesses.