Google is eating everybody else’s lunch. The share of Advertising revenue that Google passes back to the content owners whose content their entire business is built on the back of, has steadily gone down. This was deliberate and they knew what they were doing.
In Google’s annual 10-K SEC filings, Google breaks down its advertising revenue as going to “Google properties” or “web sites of Google Network members.” The term “Google Network members” refers to non-Google websites on which Google places advertising. In its 2017 10-K, Google explains that it generally accounts for third-party revenue on a gross basis: “For ads placed on Google Network Members’ properties, we evaluate whether we are the principal (i.e., report revenues on a gross basis) or agent (i.e., report revenues on a net ba- sis). Generally, we report advertising revenues for ads placed on Google Net- work Members’ properties on a gross basis, that is, the amounts billed to our customers are recorded as revenues, and amounts paid to Google Network Members are recorded as cost of revenues. Where we are the principal, we control the advertising inventory before it is transferred to our customers. Our control is evidenced by our sole ability to monetize the advertising inventory before it is transferred to our customers, and is further supported by us being primarily responsible to our customers and having a level of discretion in establishing pricing.” In 2004, Google buying tools allocated approximately 50% of advertising revenue to Google’s proprietary properties, such as Search, and the other 50% to non-Google websites selling their ads through Google’s buying tools and advertising exchange. Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Mar. 30, 2005), https://perma.cc/5A4Y-8EY4. It was in 2006 that Google acquired YouTube. An- drew Ross Sorkin & Jeremy W. Peters, Google to Acquire YouTube for $1.65 Billion, N.Y. TIMES (Oct. 9, 2006), https://perma.cc/5TG8-8BVE. In 2005, Google’s share of advertising revenue increased to, approximately, 55%; 2006, 60%; 2007, 65%; 2008, 68%; 2009, 68%; 2010, 68%; 2011, 71%; 2012, 71%; 2013, 73%; 2014, 75%; 2015, 77%; 2016, 80%; 2017, 81%, 2018, 82%; 2019, 84%. Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Mar. 16, 2006), https://perma.cc/Y272-BRAP; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Mar. 1, 2007), https://perma.cc/H4ZJ-FL7B; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 15, 2008), https://perma.cc/W6FU-AA2T; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 13, 2009), https://perma.cc/5PZY-UZS5; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 12, 2010), https://perma.cc/7B6E- REEV; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 12, 2011), https://perma.cc/9ZKX-XPKL; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Apr. 23, 2012), https://perma.cc/YS3R-TLE4; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Jan. 29, 2013), https://perma.cc/3W45-M9R9; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 11, 2014), https://perma.cc/79A2-6TCT; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 6, 2015), https://perma.cc/7DJZ-FD8S; Google Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 11, 2016) https://perma.cc/EU2M-T6QC; Alphabet Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 2, 2017), https://perma.cc/4QKP-UUZJ; Alphabet Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 5, 2018), https://perma.cc/22HL-SSSP; Alphabet Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 4, 2019), https://perma.cc/ELZ2-AC93; Alphabet Inc., Annual Report (Form 10-K) (Feb. 3, 2020), https://perma.cc/RWE8- 27PB.
Last week the US House Judiciary Committee took time out from their busy schedule of impeaching Donald Trump to actually do something useful. They held a field hearing about the power of online platforms and spoke to witnesses specifically about Facebook, Google and Amazon. This was the title of the hearing:
Date: Friday, January 17, 2020 – 10:00am Location: 01/17/2020 10:00 AM MST Tags: Antitrust
If you want to watch the whole thing, you can here (link). Fox had a good write up. All of the witnesses told compelling stories of how difficult it is to innovate in a market dominated by companies that have grown so huge. Throughout I heard a clear tension between business people who clearly want government to get out of the way and let them innovate, but a recognition that Google, Facebook and Amazon (in particular) have grown unnaturally large and are now a threat to innovation.
I pulled out the following clip by the CTO of software service provider Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson. He has decided not to use Facebook for advertising and he explains how that is so difficult to do. It is entirely analogous to a news site or prominent individual who choses not to be active on Facebook or is banned from it for whatever reason.
He’s arguing, and I completely agree with him, Facebook and Google managed to collect and gather a trove of personal information in an early gold rush. Most people had no idea they were handing over something this valuable in aggregate because individually they thought it a fair exchange for shiny beads and services. Amazon is also sitting on a similar power.
I no longer have access to Facebook and I absolutely know that for the kind of blog posts I write, I would receive something like 70% of my traffic from there if I merely had a Facebook mirror of my blog posts. Whether you’re buying adverts using their astonishingly intrusive targeting data, or just trying to have your thoughts heard, Facebook is the giant you can’t ignore. That’s one of the reasons why their ban on crypto advertising had such a devastating effect.
America doesn’t really have the same anti-trust regulations we’re using in Australia for our suit. Which is a pity, they don’t seem to know what to do. Toward the end of the hearing the politicians ask the panel what they suggest: the short version is they really don’t know what to do about it!
Up until now there seems to have been a sort of Stockholm syndrome mentality within crypto insiders. Some crypto insiders believe there were lots of scams and the whole industry needed to feel guilty about them. They just took the punishment from these huge mega corporations and felt they deserved some of it! Evidence just doesn’t back this up. We have to fight that mentality which seems to be a very strongly held belief in a myth. You can read more about why this is a hoax here.
While the suit names Facebook, Google and Twitter directly, Hamilton said he considers Facebook the principle offender, and alleged that the tech giant instigated the ban.
In comments to Decrypt, a Facebook spokesman who did not want to be quoted by name said the social network would look into any cases where unfairness is alleged. The spokesman added that the initial ban had been intentionally broad to better understand the crypto market; the intent had been to create clearer policy around what constitutes acceptable crypto advertising.
Does this phrase: “the initial ban had been intentionally broad to better understand the crypto market” mean Facebook decided to ban an entire industry before they even understood it? That would be an astonishing admission. Or are they just gaslighting now?
In the meantime JPB Liberty has received an acknowledgement of our initial letter sent to Google in Australia. They confirmed Google Australia was talking with Google in the US and a few other details.
We were also covered by Nadja Bester of BeInCrypto with an excellent and detailed explanation of the case.
This video I recorded in Jerusalem was especially good at driving sign ups to our case.
If you want to join the fight, instructions below. We’re always looking for class members as no-win-no-fee participants and at the same time, if you want a financial stake in this project, you can send money by PayPal or various crypto and you will receive a cryptographic token representing your share in the damages.