We hate success

The Justice Department has hired a litigator to look at going after Google and its growing dominance in advertising.

This isn’t surprising, of course. It’s the yin-yang of American business: we love success stories but we hate too much success.

The problem with going after Google is that unlike Microsoft or earlier monopolies, the industries Google affects handed it its dominance on a silver platter. Google didn’t steal it away. Yahoo went to Google to be rescued from erstwhile monopolist Microsoft and to improve its bottom line by hundreds of millions of dollars. Newspapers–non-French-speaking ones at least–hire specialists to make their content more attractive to Google and happily take its ads–including this week’s announcement about Google digitizing and monetizing newspaper archives. See also this week’s announcement by NBC that it is handing over some ad inventory to Google. That’s not just about the money. It’s about bringing in a new population of advertisers that big media couldn’t serve (being too big–irony noted).

The agency side of the business, too, is eager to do business with Google. When I interviewed Rishad Tobaccowalla of Publcis’ Denou for my book, he explained that the giant agency consolidated all its digital divisions so it would have better negotiating leverage with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, et al — and also so it would gather more data (as Google does) to learn more about users and target ads better.

But Google gobbles up advertising companies, you say. Well, its acquisition of Doubleclick was approved by the government only recently. Has Google gotten too big since then?

I’ve long argued that we do, indeed, need competition in the ad market but it’s not going to come from regulation. It’s going to come from getting off our asses and creating those competitors. I said that we need an open-source ad marketplace. Nobody’s heeded that advice. Meanwhile, Glam has built a non-Google network that has grown to gigantic proportion–CEO Samir Arora told me at a Burda party the other night that it now serves more than 80 million uniques worldwide, more than 40 million in the U.S. with brand advertisers. That is a competitor to Google.

(Full disclosure: I’m writing a book about Google, What Would Google Do? And I own Google stock.)