Largest US newspaper publisher sues Google, alleging online ad monopoly

Gannett argues in court documents that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, controls how publishers buy and sell ads online.

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Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the United States, is suing Google, alleging the tech giant holds a monopoly over the digital ad market.

The publisher of USA Today and more than 200 local publications filed the lawsuit in a New York federal court on Tuesday, and is seeking unspecified damages. Gannett argues in court documents that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, controls how publishers buy and sell ads online.

“The result is dramatically less revenue for publishers and Google’s ad-tech rivals, while Google enjoys exorbitant monopoly profits,” the lawsuit states.

Google controls about a quarter of the US digital advertising market, with Meta, Amazon and TikTok combining for another third, according to eMarketer. News publishers and other websites combine for the other roughly 40%. Big Tech’s share of the market is beginning to erode slightly, but Google remains by far the largest individual player.

That means publishers often rely at least in part on Google’s advertising technology to support their operations: Gannett says Google controls 90% of the ad market for publishers.

Michael Reed, Gannett’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday that Google’s dominance in the online advertising industry has come “at the expense of publishers, readers and everyone else.”

“Digital advertising is the lifeblood of the online economy,” Reed added. “Without free and fair competition for digital ad space, publishers cannot invest in their newsrooms.”

Dan Taylor, Google’s vice president of global ads, told CNN that the claims in the suit “are simply wrong.”

“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,” Taylor said in a statement Tuesday. “And when publishers choose to use Google tools, they keep the vast majority of revenue.”

He continued: “We’ll show the court how our advertising products benefit publishers and help them fund their content online.”

The legal action from Gannett comes as Google faces a growing number of antitrust complaints in the United States and the European Union over its advertising business, which remains its central moneymaker.

EU officials said last week that Google’s advertising business should be broken up, alleging that the tech giant’s involvement in multiple parts of the digital advertising supply chain creates “inherent conflicts of interest” that risk harming competition.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department and eight states sued Google, accusing the company of harming competition with its dominance in the online advertising market and similarly calling for it to be broken up.