News Corp’s ongoing criticism of the control that Google and Facebook exercise over digital advertising continued this week with the publisher’s chief executive Robert Thomson labelling the two a “digital duopoly”.
The Rupert Murdoch-controlled media empire has made no secret of its desire to challenge Google’s dominance of the advertising industry as it pursuits a larger slice of advertisers’ media spend. Thomson this week again verbalised his own disdain for the digital giants and accused Google of blurring the lines between fake and quality news, creating a “dysfunctional and socially destructive” environment for journalists and publishers, reported The Australian.
“Both companies could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but, instead, they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat earth philosophy that doesn’t wish to distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both — for them, free content has been free money,” said Thomson at the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
“The digital duopoly has rewritten the rules in a way that has written much journalism and integrity out of the script,” Thomson added, arguing the two companies act as publishers and need to be held to account in the same vein as their traditional counterparts.
He said that in 25,000 random Google searches adverts for Google products appeared in the most prominent slots 90% of the time. For example, when searching for laptops, ads for Google Chromebook were dominant over other brands. “How on earth is that not the unfair leveraging of search dominance and the abuse of the algorithm? Candidly, Kim Jong-un in North Korea would be envious of results like that at election time,” he said.
His speech also focused on the recent ad misplacement furore at Google’s YouTube, an argument that couldn’t have come at a better moment for News Corp’s ambition of chasing a chunk of advertiser’s media spend, with the publisher earlier this month positioning chief executive Robert Thomson as a “longtime evangelist for the view that large tech platforms are ‘platforms for piracy’” as brands and agencies began to pull spend.
Thomson build on that image and said that it was “beyond revisible” that Google is shirking its responsibility for the misplaced ads.
“It is risible, no, no, no, beyond risible, that Google/YouTube, which has earned, literally, hundreds of billions of dollars from other people’s content, should now be lamenting that it can’t possibly be held responsible for monitoring that content,” he said.
Like Rupert Murdoch - a longtime critic of the online business - Thomson’s indignation toward the online business has gathered steam over the last year, according to an email from News Corp earlier this month.
One paragraph read: “…We are in an era in which integrity is priceless, yet digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious, highlighting an issue which we have long stressed – that they have eroded the integrity of content by undermining its provenance. Put simply, content distributors are profiting at the expense of content creators and at the expense of veracity… And in the ad market, there has been an awakening, and there will surely be a reckoning.”
And as some of the world’s biggest brands pull their adverts from Google, News Corp has – whether by design or inadvertently – galvanised a committed coalition of the willing to end the Google and Facebook duopoly of online media.