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Google leaps before it looks again on Microsoft-Yahoo -- more shareholder-unfriendly behavior

Google must have been caught off guard last week by the Microsoft-Yahoo bid because they are reacting quite rashly and arguably in a way that is not in the best interests of their shareholders...

First, is it wise for Google to be proactively and angrily  "kicking the antitrust bee hive" in the U.S. and in Europe when their DoubleClick acquisition is still pending with EU regulators?

  • Did it ever occur to Google that they could take the close call in the EU over their pending merger -- that previously was trending in their favor -- and give opponents of the deal in the EU -- more ammunition that this market is too concentrated and that antitrust officials should be more concerned about this market?
    • Has Google forgotten that they have 90% search share in Gemany/Spain and 75% share in France/UK? 

Second, in leading the charge against Microsoft-Yahoo in Washington, has it occurred to any adult in Mountain View that this will only accelerate Washington interest and attention to adopt the FTC's (5-0) proposed behavioral advertising privacy principles/regulation, which would require opt-in and "affirmative express consent" before Google could use "sensitive data."?

FTC paved way for approval of Microsoft-Yahoo in approving Google-DoubleClick 4-1

I can't say I'm at all surprised to see Microsoft seek to acquire Yahoo. 

  • It makes obvious business sense for both Microsoft and Yahoo -- because it is the only viable and timely strategic option for either company to become a serious and credible competitor to Google-DoubleClick's rapidly increasing dominance of search and Internet advertising.
  • And given the FTC's surprisingly-strong consolidation-endorsing analysis of the Google-DoubleClick merger -- a previously-perceived yellow antitrust light to such a merger by Microsoft -- now has a bright blinking green light for approval.
    • Timing-wise it's obvious to Microsoft to get approval now while the getting is so good.

Implications for Google-DoubleClick of Microsoft losing antitrust appeal

So what are the implications of Microsoft losing its antitrust appeal in the EU's Appeals court -- which was a page one story in all the major papers?

More and different than most may think.

The EU is signalling in it's harsh treatment of Microsoft, that the EU is going to be tough on "dominant" firms. 

What are the specific anti-competitive effects of Google-DoubleClick?

The antitrust relevance of yesterday's New York Times reported quote: " ...marketers increasingly want to combine their purchases of search and display advertising." has really quite profound implications for the pending Google-Double-Click deal.

 

What that quote does is zero in on what really matters to FTC antitrust authorities -- how would the transaction actually change the current competitive dynamic, or more specifically, how would the merger "substantially lessen competition," which is the legal standard for approving/disapproving mergers.

Googleopoly evidence growing #1: Yahoo's search/display problem

Google tries to maintain that search and display advertising are separate markets and not direct competitors.

It appears Yahoo would beg to differ.

Today's New York Times reported:

  • "...Yahoo recently shook up its ad sales force, combining into a single unit its search advertising and display advertising." 

  • "Mr. Barry said that the reorganization would probably help Yahoo in the long term, as marketers increasingly want to combine their purchases of search and display advertising." [bold added]

Google surrogate CCIA lashes back against "Googleopoly" report

It didn't take long for the Empire to Strike back! Shortly after the release of Googleopoly, Ed Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents Google, put out a critical press release on my Googleopoly white paper entitled:  "Merger Report Unconvincing." 

  • As I predicted on my blog this morning:"I expect to be attacked personally for my analysis and conclusions here, just like I was attacked by Bernie Ebbers and WorldCom as "the idiot Washington analyst" for having the audacity to be the only analyst in the country willing to predict, and stick to my guns, that the government would block the WorldCom-Sprint merger."

As expected they tried to discredit the messenger because they don't like the message. Standard operating procedure from my debate opponents.

Why the FTC Will Likely Block the Google-DoubleClick Merger

My detailed analysis over the last several weeks leads me to believe that the FTC is likely to block the Google-DoubleClick merger because it will enable Google to dominate online advertising and dramatically increase the opportunity for market collusion and price manipulation in the market for consumer click data, ad-performance tools, ad-brokering and ad-exchanges.

Antitrust is fact-specific and evidence-driven. To understand the true antitrust outlook for a merger one needs to become familiar with the core facts of the case. To date, media and investment coverage of this merger has been remarkably superficial.

  • The executive summary and my new 35-page white paper: "Googleopoly: the Google-DoubleClick Anti-Competitive Case" can be found at Googleopoly.net. An audio file of my conference call on this merger outlook will also be on Googleopoly.net. The analysis and conclusions are driven by pages and pages of facts and evidence.
    • The purpose of the paper is to present the detailed case theory, argumentation and evidence of why the merger is anti-competitive and harms consumers, content providers and advertisers.
    • The paper:
      • Defines the market;
      • Explains why Google-DoubleClick are competitors;
      • Explains why startups, Yahoo and Microsoft can't compete with Google in search;
      • Spotlights the four anti-competitive network effects of the merger; and
      • Shows how the merger harms consumers, content providers and advertisers.

I see three big takeaways from my white paper.

First, the more people learn about this merger the more concern they will develop.

Googleopoly conf. call Tues. July 17 11am EST on Google-DoubleClick merger

You're invited to participate in a conference call Tuesday July 17th at 11 am EST to hear a discussion of, and Q&A on, my new 35-page white paper, entitled:

I will explain how a Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) - DoubleClick merger will facilitate a de facto Internet information access monopoly, substantially lessen competition, and harm consumers, Internet content providers, and advertisers.

"Earmarked Airwaves" -- a 700 MHz auction "UNE-P" deja vu?

Kudos to Robert Hahn and Hal Singer for their outstanding op ed in the Washington Post "Earmarked Airwaves."

  • The editorial cogently presents the fork in the road that faces any major FCC decision: to follow law, which promotes competition and market-driven outcomes, or to freelance and try and "manage" competition and pick winners and losers in advance through "spectrum earmarking."
  • FCC history is littered with freelance "managed competition" failures, but two are particularly ignominious and highly relevant to this 700 MHz auction:
    • the illegal UNE-P scheme to rig telecom competitive outcomes following the 1996 Telecom Act; and
    • the Nextwave auction scandal that kept 30 MHz of prime spectrum fallow and tied up in court for almost a decade.

At its core a spectrum auction is the quintessential type of competition. The auction law's purpose in 1993 was to use market forces, competition, to allocate the public's asset most appropriately, largely because previous FCC spectrum allocation processes were so ineffective, unfair and prone to serious abuse and graft.

  • While no process is perfect, a clean competitive auction process has proven highly effective in rewarding US taxpayers and fostering a growing and highly competitive wireless marketplace that greatly benefits consumers.

This 700 MHz auction may be shaping up to be FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's legacy moment: will it be marked by promoting competition and market-based outcomes or will it be marked by standing on the auction scales to ensure the spectrum is "earmarked" to the predetermined, chosen "winner" -- in this case former Clinton-Gore FCC Chairman Reed Hundt's Frontline Wireless company.  

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