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Antitrust

What are the specific anti-competitive effects of Google-DoubleClick?

The antitrust relevance of yesterday's New York Times reported quote: " ...marketers increasingly want to combine their purchases of search and display advertising." has really quite profound implications for the pending Google-Double-Click deal.

 

What that quote does is zero in on what really matters to FTC antitrust authorities -- how would the transaction actually change the current competitive dynamic, or more specifically, how would the merger "substantially lessen competition," which is the legal standard for approving/disapproving mergers.

Googleopoly evidence growing #1: Yahoo's search/display problem

Google tries to maintain that search and display advertising are separate markets and not direct competitors.

It appears Yahoo would beg to differ.

Today's New York Times reported:

  • "...Yahoo recently shook up its ad sales force, combining into a single unit its search advertising and display advertising." 

  • "Mr. Barry said that the reorganization would probably help Yahoo in the long term, as marketers increasingly want to combine their purchases of search and display advertising." [bold added]

Great WSJ Editorial on Google: "Sort of Evil" Will consumer groups tune in?

Please don't miss Holman Jenkin's great Wall Street Journal editorial on Google: "Sort of Evil."

I particularly like his new term for net neutrality/open access regulation: "business model chauvinism." Dead on.

  • Google is lobbying for laws and regulations which will advantage their business model and further their dominance of Internet advertising, and also to "block, degrade and impair" any other business model from competing with Google.
    • Simply, Google has a very sophisticated strategy to foreclose potential competition to Google.

He also points the spotlight on what Google is really doing in organizing groups to view broadband companies as the big public enemy for things they might do in the future, and how that conveniently distracts people from scrutinizing Google's own increasing dominance of online advertising and the business model of the Internet. 

Google surrogate CCIA lashes back against "Googleopoly" report

It didn't take long for the Empire to Strike back! Shortly after the release of Googleopoly, Ed Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents Google, put out a critical press release on my Googleopoly white paper entitled:  "Merger Report Unconvincing." 

  • As I predicted on my blog this morning:"I expect to be attacked personally for my analysis and conclusions here, just like I was attacked by Bernie Ebbers and WorldCom as "the idiot Washington analyst" for having the audacity to be the only analyst in the country willing to predict, and stick to my guns, that the government would block the WorldCom-Sprint merger."

As expected they tried to discredit the messenger because they don't like the message. Standard operating procedure from my debate opponents.

Why the FTC Will Likely Block the Google-DoubleClick Merger

My detailed analysis over the last several weeks leads me to believe that the FTC is likely to block the Google-DoubleClick merger because it will enable Google to dominate online advertising and dramatically increase the opportunity for market collusion and price manipulation in the market for consumer click data, ad-performance tools, ad-brokering and ad-exchanges.

Antitrust is fact-specific and evidence-driven. To understand the true antitrust outlook for a merger one needs to become familiar with the core facts of the case. To date, media and investment coverage of this merger has been remarkably superficial.

  • The executive summary and my new 35-page white paper: "Googleopoly: the Google-DoubleClick Anti-Competitive Case" can be found at Googleopoly.net. An audio file of my conference call on this merger outlook will also be on Googleopoly.net. The analysis and conclusions are driven by pages and pages of facts and evidence.
    • The purpose of the paper is to present the detailed case theory, argumentation and evidence of why the merger is anti-competitive and harms consumers, content providers and advertisers.
    • The paper:
      • Defines the market;
      • Explains why Google-DoubleClick are competitors;
      • Explains why startups, Yahoo and Microsoft can't compete with Google in search;
      • Spotlights the four anti-competitive network effects of the merger; and
      • Shows how the merger harms consumers, content providers and advertisers.

I see three big takeaways from my white paper.

First, the more people learn about this merger the more concern they will develop.

Googleopoly conf. call Tues. July 17 11am EST on Google-DoubleClick merger

You're invited to participate in a conference call Tuesday July 17th at 11 am EST to hear a discussion of, and Q&A on, my new 35-page white paper, entitled:

I will explain how a Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) - DoubleClick merger will facilitate a de facto Internet information access monopoly, substantially lessen competition, and harm consumers, Internet content providers, and advertisers.

New evidence of why Google so dominates search

The New York Times article today: "South Koreans Connect Through Search Engine" provides a huge window into what the real source of a search engine's market dominance is. (The article indicates that in South Korea, Naver.com is the leading search engine with 77% share, followed by South Korean company Daum.net with 10.8%, and Yahoo with 4.4%. Google's market share is 1.7% in South Korea.)

  • The South Korean example is a particularly helpful set of facts and insights to the FTC and Congress in their journey to understand Google's increasing search dominance and the potential anti-competitive effects of the Google-DoubleClick merger.

Specifically, what makes Google's 1.7% South Korean search market share different from its 90% share in Germany, Spain, 82% share in France, 75% share in the UK, and its 65% share in the US -- given that Google has been competing in the South Korean market since 2000?

A concise summary of the excellent FTC report on Net Neutrality

I strongly recommend the FTC staff report on "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy" to anyone wanting an objective, well-reasoned, fair, and comprehensive review of the facts and evidence of the net neutrality regulation debate.

I believe the most important sentence in the whole 170 page staff report, which covered an enormous and comprehensive public record on the subject, was on page 11 and again on page 160:

  •  "To date we are unaware of any siginificant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm from conduct by broadband providers." [Bold emphasis added]
  • I believe that's the best bottomline summary conclusion of the report.

The FTC report can be further well summarized by the following four sentences found on pages 10, 11, 155 and 11 respectively:

  • "We recommend policymakers proceed with caution in evaluating proposals to enact regulations in the area of broadband Internet access."
  • "Policymakers also should carefully consider the potentially adverse and unintended effects of regulation in the area of broadband Internet accesss before enacting any such regulation."
  • "Over time, competition produces the best results for consumers, providing them the lowest prices, the highest quality products and services, and the most choice."
  • "The FTC will continue to devote substantial resources to maintaining competition and protecting consumers in the area of broadband Internet access, using a variety of tools."

In closing, I was very impressed with the FTC staff's knowledge, sophistication, and fair representation of both sides' views.

Google's perverse version of the "Golden Rule"

Google's naiveté and cluelessness on antitrust matters continues to amaze me. While Google has ramped up its Washington lobbying presence a ton of late, it is amusing that the company-at-large still does not have a lick of political savvy or common sense.

It is almost as if Google operates having an out-of-body experience, where their leaders think they can float sanctimoniously above the playing field and see everything perfectly, but no one can see them or what they are doing.

What do I mean? Let me put Google's antitrust and political behavior into context.

  • Google is ferociously going after Microsoft on antitrust matters. After they recently won a huge concession from Microsoft to make Google's desktop search work better and faster -- a concession not required by the DOJ-supervised committee that oversees Microsoft's competitive behavior -- Google is now asking for Microsoft's antitrust decree not to expire.
  • This is classic, hardball, take-no-prisoners behavior that sometimes yields short-term results, but always invites long-term disaster.
  • In effect, Google is taunting the antitrust-caged Microsoft tiger, imagining that they are untouchable, invincible and legally superior.

It is amazing to me that Google appears to be unaware and clueless that they have voluntarily walked into their own “antitrust cage" of the FTC review process for approving two of their deals, DoubleClick and FeedBurner.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths