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Implications of a Search Monopoly for Content/Applications

The content and applications industries have yet to connect-the-dots of the U.S. Department of Justice concluding search advertising is a monopoly and that Google has pro-actively sought to further its monopoly in search advertising and search advertising syndication.  

  • The long term implications of this DOJ conclusion are sweeping and profound for content and apps providers.  

Simply, if the DOJ believes Google is a monopoly, then it follows that DOJ would believe it is illegal under antitrust law for Google to proactively disadvantage its competitors’ content/applications by favoring Google-owned content/applications over competitors’ content/applications on Google’s search advertising monopoly platform.

  • Let that sink in for a minute.
    • What was acceptable to antitrust officials before Google was believed to be a monopoly, is not acceptable after Google is officially believed to be a monopoly.
    • In other words, Google crossed the monopoly line.
  • What this means practically is that Google’s antitrust troubles haven’t ended with the blocked Google-Yahoo ad agreement, they have only just begun.
  • I fully expect there will be significant antitrust suits against Google going forward.
    • The question is less if, but when, who, and on what particular basis.  

The irony here is that it is Yahoo, the company that just tried to "collaborate" with Google, which gives us a practical example of how Google’s anti-competitive exercise of its monopoly power against content/applications -- works in the real world.

  • Kudos to Pete Barlas of Investors Business Daily for his excellent article: "Search-Result Objectivity Issues in MapQuest Vs. Google Maps" which delves into Google's (anti) competitive behavior in online maps.

The article explains that:

  • Despite Yahoo's MapQuest being the #1 map service -- Google's supposedly neutral/objective algorithm ranks Google Maps tops.
  • "The fact that Google Maps comes up first is one thing, but Christian Dwyer, MapQuest's general manager, points to two other items that he calls dirty pool. For one, the use of the map with the top search result gives that top result more space, pushing all other search results lower on the page — assuming MapQuest even makes the first page of results. (It didn't always in our searches.) The other issue for Dwyer is that even with paid search ads — the sponsored links the companies pay to be placed with search results — MapQuest always seems to be displayed below Google Maps' ads."
  • ""...Dwyer makes another point: "Do you think that Google is paying themselves to actually put their (ads) in their paid search area? They're not, but they are driving up my costs to pay for my own branded terms, and that to me does not feel like an equitable position."S earch advertisers that pay the most get the best placement. That Google Maps' sponsored ads always seem to top MapQuest's "is suspicious," Dwyer said."
    • The circumstances behind this IBD article are strikingly similar to a NYT column by Joe Nocera, which describes how Google anti-competitively disadvantaged its competitor Source Tool. 

With all due respect to the analysts quoted in the IBD article who did not suggest that Google is "rigging the game" -- that is precisely what my Googleopoly I, II and III analyses suggest -- I called it "self-dealing and front running."


Bottom line:


This is a big deal because the DOJ believes Google is a search advertising monopoly and search advertising is increasingly the predominant monetization engine for Internet content.  

  • Light bulbs should be going on in executives' heads around the content and apps industry.
  • If Google can disfavor SourceTool and Yahoo MapQuest, they can disadvantage any content or app.

It is amazing that with all the fear by tech players and activists of potential discrimination by communications providers, they can't spot the real thing in the tech world when its flashing right under their own nose...