Gannett Goes After Google in Antitrust Lawsuit

(Photo Credit: Pawel Czerwinski/Unsplash)

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Newspapers aren’t dead. In fact, they’re as mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

Gannett, the media conglomerate that publishes more than 200 local newspapers under the USA Today banner, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google and its parent company, Alphabet, Tuesday. It’s the latest threat to the world’s most used search engine and its monopoly on the digital advertising sector.

This Doesn’t Ad Up

Throughout the 20th Century, newspapers earned the majority of their money through ad sales; circulation was secondary. Even after the dawn of the digital age, newspaper ad revenue continued to flourish in the US, reaching a peak of nearly $50 billion in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center. But right about that time is when Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook began to develop strangleholds on digital advertising markets.

Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in 2007 and other purchases like YouTube, Nest, and AdMob made the search engine the de-facto owner of many of the tools for buying and selling online ads, leaving news publications in the dust. By 2020, newspaper ad revenue had fallen to roughly $9.6 billion, while subscription revenue surpassed it with $11 billion. Meanwhile, Google’s ad revenue hit nearly $150 billion that same year.

Now news publications are looking to reclaim revenues they feel were wrongfully taken from them for the past two decades by tech giants:

  • Gannett is seeking unspecified but “very substantial” damages from Google and Alphabet. The media corporation argues that the pair force publishers to sell more ad space to Google at depressed prices, resulting in “dramatically less revenue for publishers and Google’s ad-tech rivals, while Google enjoys exorbitant monopoly profits.”
  • This is far from Google’s first antitrust rodeo, and it likely won’t be its last. In 2021, more than 200 news outlets across the US filed a class action lawsuit against Google for essentially bogarting digital ad spaces and technologies. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice filed its own lawsuit against Google, specifically calling it a monopoly whose “anticompetitive conduct has suppressed alternative technologies, hindering their adoption by publishers, advertisers, and rivals.” And just last week, the European Commission brought similar charges to Google.

Barely a Shakedown: In other Google hot water news, it agreed to pay a $23 million settlement last week after it was found that the California company shared searches with third-party websites and companies without explicit user authorization. Like any settlement from a mega-corporation, Google maintains it did nothing wrong, the allegations were false, and it was all some big tech witch hunt, but that it’s willing to pay out some chump change (not even 0.001% of its yearly revenue) to make the headache go away. So if you clicked on a search result in the United States between Oct. 26, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2013, you might be entitled to a whopping $7.70.