Gannett filed a federal lawsuit against Google and parent company Alphabet on Tuesday, alleging that Google has monopolies on the ad tech market that have hurt local news. “The lawsuit seeks to restore competition in the digital advertising marketplace and end Google’s monopoly, which will encourage investment in newsrooms and news content throughout the country,” Gannett wrote in a press release.
In its lawsuit, Gannett argues that although the digital ad market has exploded, publishers do not see as much of that money because Google and Alphabet have “acquired and maintain monopolies” for ad tech used to buy and sell ads by linking Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) with the AdX exchange where publishers sell their inventory. Google acquired DoubleClick in 2007 to help build out its ad tech stack, and Gannett alleges that the company is the “dominant player” for each step of the ad selling process.
“Google controls how publishers sell their ad slots, and it forces publishers to sell growing shares of that ad space to Google at depressed prices,” Gannett said. “The result is dramatically less revenue for publishers and Google’s ad-tech rivals, while Google enjoys exorbitant monopoly profits.” In a USA Today editorial, Gannett CEO and chairman Mike Reed argued that “Google abuses its control over the ad server monopoly” at the expense of local news organizations.
Google is pushing back on the claims. “These claims are simply wrong,” Dan Taylor, VP of Google Ads, said in a statement. “Publishers have many options to choose from when it comes to using advertising technology to monetize — in fact, Gannett uses dozens of competing ad services, including Google Ad Manager. And when publishers choose to use Google 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.”
Gannett’s lawsuit is just the latest legal action against Google in regard to its online advertising technology. In January, the US Department of Justice and eight states sued the company for its alleged ad market monopoly. Earlier this month, the European Commission filed a formal statement of objections over the company’s ad tech, saying that the company has “breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in the advertising technology industry.” And the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority launched a second investigation into the company’s ad business in 2022.