The U.S. is investigating whether the tech giant has abused its power, including as the biggest broker of digital ad sales across the web
Nexstar Media Group Inc., the largest local news company in the U.S., recently tested what would happen if it stopped using Google’s technology to place ads on its websites.
Over several days, the company’s video ad sales plummeted. “That’s a huge revenue hit,” said Tony Katsur, senior vice president at Nexstar. After its brief test, Nexstar switched back to Google.
Alphabet Inc. ’s Google is under fire for its dominance in digital advertising, in part because of issues like this. The U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general are investigating whether Google is abusing its power, including as the dominant broker of digital ad sales across the web. Most of the nearly 130 questions the states asked in a September subpoena were about the inner workings of Google’s ad products and how they interact.
We dug into Google’s vast, opaque ad machine, and in a series of graphics below, show you how it all works—and why publishers and rivals have had so many complaints about it.
Much of Google’s power as an ad broker stems from acquisitions of ad-technology companies, especially its 2008 purchase of DoubleClick. Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways.
In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products. Google operates the leading selling and buying tools, and the biggest marketplace where online ad deals happen.
When Nexstar didn’t use Google’s selling tool, it missed out on a huge amount of demand that comes through its buying tools, Mr. Katsur said: “They want you locked in.”