To Save the News, We Must Shatter Ad-Tech
The news industry is facing multiple challenges, not just mass closures of newsrooms, but also physical and ideological attacks on journalists. The rise of ad-tech companies like Google and Meta have further compounded the problem, siphoning off more than half of the revenue generated by news ads, creating a duopoly that has tightened its grip on the market. In order to save the news, we need to shatter this ad-tech duopoly and create a more competitive and transparent market.
The Promise of Behavioral Advertising
Tech platforms promised that “behavioral advertising” would revolutionize the news industry by creating a more targeted and efficient ad market. Rather than relying on commissioned salespeople to convince advertisers to place ads, media companies would run ads placed by the winners of split-second auctions.
However, this system has numerous moving parts, including supply-side platforms, demand-side platforms, and marketplaces. Two of the biggest ad-tech companies, Google and Meta, offer all three services, which means they are effectively competitors, brokers, and buyers all at once. This creates an unfair and uncompetitive market where these tech giants are able to rig the auctions to charge advertisers more and pay publishers less.
A Broken Ad-Tech Market
The ad-tech market isn’t a market at all. It’s a big con where everyone the publisher sees is in on the game. The buyer’s agent, the seller’s agent, and the marketplace where they bring the publisher’s product are all run by a single company, or by two companies that have secretly agreed not to compete. This creates an almost inescapable disadvantage where sellers and buyers have nowhere to turn.
What’s worse is that Google and Meta have allegedly colluded to rig the market, further tightening their grip on the advertising industry. This creates a situation where the ad is no longer about the content but about the user. Advertisers are bidding on specific behavioral traits in an attempt to reach the desired target audience. The user is treated as a commodity, and their attention is sold to the highest bidder.
- Ad-tech companies like Google and Meta claim an ever-greater share of the income generated by ads placed alongside news content.
- The rise of ad-blocking software has only exacerbated the problem for news publishers, who are losing even more revenue.
- The lack of transparency, competition, and control in the ad-tech market has resulted in numerous unethical practices, including click fraud, ad injection, and malvertising.
The news industry is facing a crisis, with mass closures of newsrooms, physical and ideological attacks on journalists, and a broken ad-tech market that siphons off more than half of the revenue generated by news ads. In order to save the news, we need to shatter the ad-tech duopoly and create a more competitive and transparent market.
The ad-tech market is broken, and it’s not just the news industry that’s suffering. Users are bombarded with ads that are intrusive, irrelevant, and sometimes even dangerous. Advertisers are paying more than they need to, and publishers are getting less than they deserve.
To save the news, we must shatter the ad-tech duopoly and create a more competitive and transparent market. This means supporting alternative ad networks, increasing transparency and accountability in the ad industry, and creating a fair and sustainable system that benefits all stakeholders.