The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has asked competition authorities in Europe and North America to block an advertising agreement between Google and Yahoo on anti-competitive grounds, saying the deal would have a negative impact on the advertising revenues that the search giants provide to newspaper and other websites, and on the cost of paid search advertising.
WAN, which represents 77 national newspaper associations and 18,000 newspapers world-wide, called on the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice, the European Commission’s Competition Directorate, and the Competition Bureau of Canada to examine the impact of the agreement and to block the deal.
“WAN believes that the competition that currently exists between Google and Yahoo is absolutely essential to ensuring that our member titles receive competitive returns for online advertising on their sites, and for obtaining competitive prices when they purchase paid search advertising,” said Gavin O’Reilly, President of the Paris-based WAN, in letters to the directors of the three agencies.
“In our view, the proposed advertising deal between Google and Yahoo would seriously weaken that competition, resulting in less revenues and higher prices for our members. WAN is also concerned that this deal would give Google unwarranted market power over important segments of online advertising.”
Under the agreement between the search engine companies, Yahoo can run advertisements supplied by Google alongside Yahoo’s own search results. The deal would provide millions of dollars in revenue to Yahoo and strengthen Google’s dominance over the search engine advertising market.
“Google and Yahoo today are the two leading suppliers of content ads and syndicated search ads to online news sites, and they compete intensely for that business,” said WAN. “This competition forces each company to offer the best possible terms and helps ensure that newspapers earn a fair market return for the right to display ads and search boxes on their sites.
“The proposed deal will fatally weaken Yahoo as a competitor for these deals,” said WAN. “Advertisers will increasingly migrate to Google since they will see diminishing price advantages to advertising through Yahoo. Yahoo will then have fewer of its own ads to serve and therefore less ability to offer a better deal than Google. This problem will grow over time because Google – in a clear display of its true intent – has refused to allow Yahoo to show Google ads on the websites of new publishing partners it acquires after the deal is finalized. In other words, Google has imposed a condition that impedes one of Yahoo’s last remaining opportunities to compete with Google. What this means for newspapers is that Yahoo’s bids for their ad business will almost certainly be lower than they are today.”
The two companies submitted the agreement to a voluntary 100-day review process by the US Department of Justice.
Although Google and Yahoo say the deal is limited to North America, WAN believes it would have a significant effect on European newspaper publishers and warrants investigation by the European Commission.
“First, many of our European members are active in North America and will be directly harmed by any anti-competitive conduct there,” WAN said in its letter to European Competition Director Cecilio Madero.
“Second, we believe the deal will result in reduced incentives for Yahoo to compete against Google even in Europe, as Yahoo reportedly expects to earn hundreds of millions annually under the agreement. Also, because Google and Yahoo together control over 95 per cent of advertisers’ search advertising spending in Europe, the two companies could easily set the conditions for competition in the EU if they chose to do so.”
The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, has played a key role in developing the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), which would allow on-line content providers more control over how the search engines access and exploit their content. Although ACAP has won wide support among newspaper companies and other on-line content providers, Google and Yahoo have yet to accept the new ACAP standard.
The Paris-based WAN defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.