Ad Tech & Programmatic

Google’s working group for news publishers could shut down

News Corp., USA Today, and the Daily Mail have all left the group, the council’s head told Marketing Brew.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photo: Google

· 4 min read

Google wants advertisers and publishers alike to buy into its plans for an open internet after the third-party cookie is phased out, setting up consortiums and working groups to give major stakeholders a front-row seat.

But one group designed to help publishers navigate new adtech tools and better monetize their sites is facing an uncertain future after several major publishers, including News Corp. and USA Today, have been shown the door.

Rob Beeler, a publishing consultant and a former digital ad executive who said he was brought on by Google in 2021 to lead the group, told Marketing Brew that last month the tech giant suggested it would no longer participate in a consortium of publishers first convened to help understand Google’s Privacy Sandbox, its alternative to the third-party cookie.

The group, called the Publisher Council, has at times included major publishers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fox News, Disney, Paramount, Hearst, and Condé Nast, as well as some publishing platforms.

Google’s Publisher Council, which had been convening monthly, functioned as a two-way street between the tech giant and the group’s members to understand the business implications of its Privacy Sandbox, explained Paul Bannister, the chief strategy officer at the publisher platform Raptive, which is part of the council.

“The way I view it, it was a place for Google to get direct access to a large group of publishers, to gather feedback about Privacy Sandbox, to share information about Privacy Sandbox, and ultimately, to try to encourage publishers to adopt it, to get it into their business planning and engineering roadmaps,” he told Marketing Brew.

Beeler said the council was a place for open discussion and provided an opportunity for many publishers to get significant facetime between themselves and Google. Publishers have previously shared concerns about Privacy Sandbox with Marketing Brew, including the fact that the shift could be costly.

Last month, though, Beeler said he gave an ultimatum to representatives from USA Today, the Daily Mail, and News Corp., whose US publications include the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, and Barron’s: leave the council, or the Publisher Council will be dissolved.

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“It was either the group continues, or it doesn’t,” Beeler told Marketing Brew.

He told us that he made the ultimatum because Google had cited publishers’ legal actions against the company as an issue.

In an email, Google spokesperson Allie Bodack said that “Google did speak with Rob about our reservations in participating in optional industry events with companies participating in litigation against us,” but disputed the claim that the company told Beeler it would leave the group because of the participation of those three publishers.

“As we all see value in bringing this community together,” she added, “Rob decided to continue holding the forum without those parties.”

Two of the participating publishers, including The Daily Mail and USA Today’s parent company Gannett, are currently embroiled in legal proceedings against Google: In 2021, the Daily Mail filed a federal lawsuit against the tech giant and its parent company Alphabet, alleging the company controls both how ad inventory is sold and the space where ads appear, resulting in publishers seeing little revenue. Gannett followed suit earlier this year. (The Department of Justice is also claiming that Google has monopolized the digital advertising market.)

News Corp. does not appear to have pending litigation against Google.

Bodack said that the company had made no demands “regarding who can or cannot participate in the publisher council.”

“We supported Rob in building this forum to create an open dialogue with the publishing community on advertising industry topics, like privacy, innovation and transparency, and continue to see value in engaging directly with publishers in this setting and others,” Bodack said.

Representatives for USA Today and News Corp. declined to comment. A spokesperson from the Daily Mail didn’t return a request for comment.

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