Gannett Sues Google, Accusing It of Dominating the Ad Market

Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper chain, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Google, accusing the tech giant of violating federal antitrust laws by illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology used by publishers to buy and sell online ads.

In the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York against Google and its parent company, Alphabet, Gannett argued that Google’s dominance over the digital ad market has greatly cut into potential revenue for those publishers.

The complaint said that while the online ad market was worth $200 billion a year, news publishers have seen a nearly 70 percent decrease in advertising revenue since 2009, which has diminished journalism jobs and sent many newspapers out of business.

“Google controls how publishers sell their ad slots, and it forces publishers to sell growing shares of that ad space to Google at depressed prices,” the complaint said. “The result is dramatically less revenue for publishers and Google’s ad-tech rivals, while Google enjoys exorbitant monopoly profits.”

The case is the latest in a string of lawsuits brought against Google for its ad practices. In January, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, looking to break up its monopoly in digital advertising, while the European Commission filed a similar case on June 14. Britain’s antitrust authority has also been investigating Google’s advertising practices.

“News publishers depend on digital ad revenue to provide timely, cutting-edge reporting and essential content communities rely on,” Mike Reed, the chief executive of Gannett, said in a statement, “yet Google’s practices have had negative implications that depress not only revenue, but also force the reduction and footprint of local news.”

Gannett publishes USA Today as well as more than 200 daily newspapers across the country, including The Arizona Republic and The Palm Beach Post. The publisher said in the lawsuit that it had shut down more than 170 publications since 2019.

Dan Taylor, vice president of Google Ads, said in a response to the lawsuit on Tuesday: “These claims are simply wrong.”

Mr. Taylor said that publishers had many options for advertising technology, and that when they used Google tools “they keep the vast majority of the revenue.”

“We’ll show the court how our advertising products benefit publishers and help them fund their content online,” Mr. Taylor added.

Google earned nearly 80 percent of its $60 billion profit last year from advertising, which underpins popular services like search, YouTube, and email.