Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Serf on Google’s Farm

Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, in a must-read piece about Google’s dominance of the web:

What all of this comes down to is that we at TPM – and some version of this is the case for the vast majority of publishers – are connected to Google at almost every turn. (I’ve only mentioned the big ones.) Running TPM absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google let’s people use for free.

But here’s where the rubber really meets the road. The publishers use DoubleClick. The big advertisers use DoubleClick. The big global advertising holding companies use Doubleclick. Everybody at every point in the industry is wired into DoubleClick. Here’s how they all play together. The adserving (Doubleclick) is like the road. (Adexchange) is the biggest car on the road. But only AdExchange gets full visibility into what’s availability. (There’s lot of details here and argument about just what Google does and doesn’t know. But trust me on this. They keep the key information to themselves. This isn’t a suspicion. It’s the model.) So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. So not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. There’s more I’ll get to in a moment but the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is so vastly important to the entirety of the web, digital publishing and the entire ad industry that it is almost impossible to overstate. Again. They own the road. They make the rules for the road. And they get special privileges on the road with every new iteration of rules.

I could quote nearly every paragraph of this piece. Much of it you’ve probably heard before, but Marshall walks through Google’s total monopolization of the online media industry from a perspective rarely told.