On Wednesday, The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, its editorial director and publisher, authored an article explaining why the company, alongside The Progressive and Genius Media Group Inc., sued Google for price gouging and monopolistic practices that allegedly endanger independent journalism. The publisher plaintiffs sued Google last December alleging that the company violated several antitrust laws by monopolizing the intermediary services that link advertisers and publishers of display advertisements.
Vanden Heuvel explained that by cornering the advertising market, Google has “stifled competition and siphoned off precious revenue” vital to news publisher’s business model. The article summarized Google’s anticompetitive conduct in a metaphor. “Google has erected a toll bridge between publishers and advertisers, and it charges an unlawfully high price for passage,” vanden Huevel wrote. Finally, the piece pressed the gravity of the lawsuit, stating that “it is about the future of independent media.”
As for The Nation’s case, the court consolidated it with five other publisher plaintiff cases in March. One of the latest developments in the consolidated action captioned In re Google Digital Publisher Antitrust Litigation was the Northern District of California court’s grant of Google’s motion to dismiss on May 13. Though Judge Beth Labson Freeman gave the plaintiffs leave to amend, she sided with Google in finding that their theory of the liability and relevant market definition were deficiently pleaded.
The market definition was in some ways too narrow, the court explained. For instance, Google persuaded the court that the proposed market improperly excludes other means through which advertisers can reach publishers without using Google’s services. As to conduct, the court ruled that the plaintiffs must set forth more facts illustrating the particulars of the five categories of anticompetitive conduct Google allegedly engaged in.
The plaintiffs’ amended complaint is due June 14. In addition, the court has invited plaintiffs’ counsel to move for leadership positions following resolution of the pleadings in both the lawsuit’s advertiser and publisher track cases.