Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft/Open AI, - The Four Companies that are Taking and Devaluing the Content Publishers Create that Power the Open Internet

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft/Open AI, - The Four Companies that are Taking and Devaluing the Content Publishers Create that Power the Open Internet

In the digital age, the Open Internet thrives on content created by publishers. However, four tech giants - Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft/Open AI - are posing a significant challenge to these content creators. These companies are leveraging their platforms to capture the value generated by publishers' content, undermining the Open Internet's diversity and sustainability via their self-serving Generative AI and privacy agendas.

It appears that these companies' Generative AI approach involves leveraging content created by content creators and employing it for direct competition with said creators. This move will drive users to spend more time inside their walled gardens, and siphons traffic away from publishers. Google's announcements at their recent I/O conference shows how serious they are about answering all user questions on and not sending any traffic to creators in the future. Generative AI, as envisioned by the tech giants, takes audiences from content creators and gives nothing in return.

Privacy has been wielded as a cudgel by these companies, occasionally battering each other (as with Apple's ATT crushing Meta's targeting), but more and more being focused on cementing the dominance of their first-party data. As they, purely at their own whim, degrade or remove functionality like cookies and app IDs that allow third parties to assist non-tech giants, they cut more and more into the slim revenue margins of most news and lifestyle publishers. Privacy, as designed by the tech giants, like Generative AI, takes revenue from content creators and gives nothing in return.

The technological advancements and engineering prowess of these four corporations is clear. And there is no argument to be had about their amazing innovative power that has transformed the modern world. But their businesses have been built on the backs of publishers and content creators and would be much less consequential without the valuable contributions of publishers on the Open Internet - without content, the tech giants have no business.

The internet advertising landscape has undergone several transformations over time. Initially, Google and Meta built their businesses on the strength of publishers and their content. However, Apple's Safari browser devalued publisher content, leading to a shift in ad spending. The most recent disruption is the introduction of Generative AI by OpenAI/Chat GPT, which not only devalued content but also took content without payment to those that produce it. These changes have had a profound impact on the advertising industry and continue to shape its future.

Without any intention to complain, I am merely presenting the publisher-centric perspective of the situation as I see it from a high-level view similar to what I have done previously with my extinction level event missive published in April.

It has become increasingly evident that these companies may be doing what they are doing unlawfully. This situation must be addressed and stopped. This is most likely not “fair use”, a defense that allows limited use of copyrighted material without the copyright owner's permission for certain purposes. Is this stealing? Do we need a few more lawsuits against these four companies? Should these companies be broken up? I am not a lawyer, just a humble agent of truth who detects patterns in the ecosystem.

Here are some details about these companies that are impacting publishers, in order of how severely they are doing so:

  • Google - 90%+ search monopoly and now Gemini/"AI Overviews", soon there will be no need to ever leave the Google homepage. Google is acting like a monopoly when dealing with publishers. Additionally, they have maintained a 90%+ share of the publisher ad server market and operate the largest ad exchange, DSP, web browser, analytics platform, mobile app ecosystem and more. Their Privacy Sandbox launch in Q1 2025 will likely diminish (even further) publishers' programmatic CPMs on Chrome. So far. very little advertiser experimentation has occurred which is very disappointing.
  • Apple - Removing identity in the Safari browser and now threatening to remove ads in Safari, crushing publishers ability to monetize their professionally produced content. In an era where cookies are diminishing, marketers must embrace new strategies to measure and optimize advertiser performance. Unfortunately, Apple Safari inventory is valuable but is not treated that way by the advertising community.
  • Meta - LLAMA, the Facebook LLM, also misappropriated publisher content. It is Ironic that Facebook stopped promoting publisher content, especially news, and is pulling news out of Canada, when it is using the content to build its LLMs.
  • Microsoft/Open AI - Given Microsoft's significant investment of billions into Open AI, I am operating under the assumption that these two entities essentially function as a single company. Chat GPT is misappropriating content and the instigator that is pushing Google engineers to actually work after a decade of complacency. Yes, they have completed a few LLM deals with publishers but they are acting like a monopoly with Microsoft behind them. While innovation is inevitable, it needs to be fair.

Amazon is noticeably absent from this directory. Their racket is charging hefty fees and wielding monopolistic practices in the e-commerce realm that pose significant challenges for smaller merchants. The topic for an entirely different post.

Trade Desk may also require a dedicated and separate post to provide comprehensive coverage as they are pushing the industry to only buy authenticated users on the Open Internet which they now call the Premium Internet. Identity does not have to have an email address attached to it. Contextual does work, try it.

The relentless pursuit of growth driven by the need to satisfy shareholders is not a sign of malevolence, but rather a common strategy in the corporate world. It is likely that any company in a similar situation would prioritize growth above other considerations.

I can go into more detail, but that just dilutes my simple message. This needs to be said, and it needs to STOP.

My favorite phrase is “The publishers of the Open Internet make the content that powers the conversation, the LLMs, and Search” It encapsulates the importance of Open Internet publishers in creating the content that drives conversations, language models, and search. This phrase effectively highlights the crucial role of Open Internet publishers in shaping the digital world.

Publishers have also made some poor decisions in recent years, such as content arbitrage, increasing the number of ads per page, and adjusting the refresh rate, to name a few. While these tactics may be seen as questionable, they were implemented as a necessary response to the financial challenges faced by the industry. Publishers have been subjected to misappropriation and other forms of exploitation, making it imperative for them to adopt these measures to sustain their revenue and continue producing high-quality content. Essentially, these four companies have compelled publishers to engage in questionable practices.

This is a publisher tragedy of the commons - a situation in which individuals (publishers) with access to a public resource, in this case, the web, (also called a common) act in their own interest and, in doing so, ultimately deplete the resource.

My aspiration is to inspire publishers to incorporate the message into their marketing communications. While this may seem an ambitious vision, I am a firm believer in the power of bold ideas and the transformative impact they can have.

While it may not be entirely flawless, I believe it's generally accurate, and it's imperative that this message is disseminated.

“We are the publishers that create the content that powers the Open Internet, stop taking from us and devaluing our content.”

In an endeavor to ignite a transformative revolution within the Open Internet publisher community, I strive to evoke a sense of urgency and institute a paradigm shift that will revitalize the industry.

In previous iterations, I used the term “stealing, theft and guilty” which I realized might have been a bit too strong. I don’t want to get a cease-and-desist order, so I brought down my tone as I want to continue helping publishers in their fight.

Lastly, every other Friday, I host a Zoom discussion specifically for experienced individuals to delve into this topic with representatives from publisher and Ad Tech companies. At times, it even resembles a form of therapeutic dialogue. Interested individuals are welcome to join. It's a bring-your-best-game situation, and active participation is expected. Unfortunately, passive attendees will be weeded out. I understand that not everyone is equipped to contribute, but I hope we can collectively solve this problem. I would like to invite individuals from the four companies I mentioned to participate, as well as agency and marketer representatives. Cross-ecosystem collaboration is crucial, facilitating the generation of fresh ideas. Publishers need to talk to agency and marketer representatives with one voice.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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