From frenemy to friend: How Google won publishers over
By Lucia Moses
In February, Facebook hosted dozens of media company executives at its offices to show its content and product plans. Earlier, it had held roundtable meetings with 100-plus publishers while former TV anchor Campbell Brown, now Facebook’s director of news partnerships, threw soirees at her Manhattan apartment with news and journalism bigwigs.
News industry veterans have seen this all before. To them, Facebook is borrowing from the playbook Google has been using for years. Google has long tried to work with publishers, even if not always satisfactorily, on ad monetization and search results. In the past couple of years, its approach has evolved to fund news projects and support industry conferences and events like the secretive annual gathering, Newsgeist.
No one is confusing this with altruism — Google has a business to run — but this approach has helped position it more favorably with publishers than that other platform giant, Facebook. At a time of fear and loathing of platforms, you find a lot more directed at Facebook than Google.
A complementary model
Much of this stems from a simple fact: Google has a different business model than Facebook. Google’s business revolves around search advertising, which means sending users away from Google. Facebook, other other hand, operated a proprietary, closed network that is dependent on keeping people on its site or app in order to show them ads.
What’s more, Google is further down the road of maturity than Facebook. It bought DoubleClick a decade ago. And with DoubleClick came Dart for Publishers, the critical infrastructure used by most publishers in managing their advertising.
“They had DFP and recognized the ability to leverage all the inventory publishers have,” said Michael Kuntz, svp of digital revenue for the USA Today Network. “From day one, they cut the publishers in. I don’t think it was out of the kindness of their hearts, but their interests align more organically with publishers. In the case of Snapchat, Twitter and others, they have a much different agenda that is geared toward launching new products and keeping people on their sites. Hopefully content is a part of that, but I haven’t seen any real evidence that they’re interested in working with publishers in a way for publishers to make meaningful revenue.”
David Besbris, vp of engineering at Google and its AMP project lead, said Google’s interests are “extremely aligned” with publishers. Google needs publisher content to keep people coming to its search engine, and publishers’ inventory drives its display advertising business. Google and publishers also both want to preserve the open web as a counterpoint to Facebook and Snapchat’s walled gardens. “We make money when our partners make money,” he said. “If there’s no information out there because the publishers have gone out of business, that’s bad for us.”
That’s not to say the relationship has been without its ups and downs. Early on, publishers worried Google was siphoning off traffic by running snippets of their articles in search results. It’s faced a backlash in Europe by publishers and competitors who see the search giant as …read more