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Antitrust

Great WSJ Editorial on Google: "Sort of Evil" Will consumer groups tune in?

Please don't miss Holman Jenkin's great Wall Street Journal editorial on Google: "Sort of Evil."

I particularly like his new term for net neutrality/open access regulation: "business model chauvinism." Dead on.

  • Google is lobbying for laws and regulations which will advantage their business model and further their dominance of Internet advertising, and also to "block, degrade and impair" any other business model from competing with Google.
    • Simply, Google has a very sophisticated strategy to foreclose potential competition to Google.

He also points the spotlight on what Google is really doing in organizing groups to view broadband companies as the big public enemy for things they might do in the future, and how that conveniently distracts people from scrutinizing Google's own increasing dominance of online advertising and the business model of the Internet. 

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.

New evidence of why Google so dominates search

The New York Times article today: "South Koreans Connect Through Search Engine" provides a huge window into what the real source of a search engine's market dominance is. (The article indicates that in South Korea, Naver.com is the leading search engine with 77% share, followed by South Korean company Daum.net with 10.8%, and Yahoo with 4.4%. Google's market share is 1.7% in South Korea.)

  • The South Korean example is a particularly helpful set of facts and insights to the FTC and Congress in their journey to understand Google's increasing search dominance and the potential anti-competitive effects of the Google-DoubleClick merger.

Specifically, what makes Google's 1.7% South Korean search market share different from its 90% share in Germany, Spain, 82% share in France, 75% share in the UK, and its 65% share in the US -- given that Google has been competing in the South Korean market since 2000?

A concise summary of the excellent FTC report on Net Neutrality

I strongly recommend the FTC staff report on "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy" to anyone wanting an objective, well-reasoned, fair, and comprehensive review of the facts and evidence of the net neutrality regulation debate.

I believe the most important sentence in the whole 170 page staff report, which covered an enormous and comprehensive public record on the subject, was on page 11 and again on page 160:

  •  "To date we are unaware of any siginificant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm from conduct by broadband providers." [Bold emphasis added]
  • I believe that's the best bottomline summary conclusion of the report.

The FTC report can be further well summarized by the following four sentences found on pages 10, 11, 155 and 11 respectively:

  • "We recommend policymakers proceed with caution in evaluating proposals to enact regulations in the area of broadband Internet access."
  • "Policymakers also should carefully consider the potentially adverse and unintended effects of regulation in the area of broadband Internet accesss before enacting any such regulation."
  • "Over time, competition produces the best results for consumers, providing them the lowest prices, the highest quality products and services, and the most choice."
  • "The FTC will continue to devote substantial resources to maintaining competition and protecting consumers in the area of broadband Internet access, using a variety of tools."

In closing, I was very impressed with the FTC staff's knowledge, sophistication, and fair representation of both sides' views.

Google's perverse version of the "Golden Rule"

Google's naiveté and cluelessness on antitrust matters continues to amaze me. While Google has ramped up its Washington lobbying presence a ton of late, it is amusing that the company-at-large still does not have a lick of political savvy or common sense.

It is almost as if Google operates having an out-of-body experience, where their leaders think they can float sanctimoniously above the playing field and see everything perfectly, but no one can see them or what they are doing.

What do I mean? Let me put Google's antitrust and political behavior into context.

  • Google is ferociously going after Microsoft on antitrust matters. After they recently won a huge concession from Microsoft to make Google's desktop search work better and faster -- a concession not required by the DOJ-supervised committee that oversees Microsoft's competitive behavior -- Google is now asking for Microsoft's antitrust decree not to expire.
  • This is classic, hardball, take-no-prisoners behavior that sometimes yields short-term results, but always invites long-term disaster.
  • In effect, Google is taunting the antitrust-caged Microsoft tiger, imagining that they are untouchable, invincible and legally superior.

It is amazing to me that Google appears to be unaware and clueless that they have voluntarily walked into their own “antitrust cage" of the FTC review process for approving two of their deals, DoubleClick and FeedBurner.

Webopolies Google and eBay kiss and make up after spat

Reuters reports that ebay will "resume Web advertising on a limited basis with Google..." 

  • After witholding its advertising affections from Google for 10 long days, it appears that Google was sufficiently contrite and apologetic to eBay for its bad manners in competing with eBay by hosting a party for its competing online payment product, Checkout, in the same city as eBay's big confab that highlights it dominant online payment service, PayPal.

There are a few important points to be made about Internet "competition" here.

  • First, there is little competition in the online auction listings. According to Jupiter Research, eBay has 95% of the online auction market, hence my "webopoly" moniker" for eBay.
  • Second, eBay likes to tie its leading online payment service, PayPal to its online auction listings webopoly, because it does not allow its users to use Google's Checkout service.
    • Interesting actual behavior for a company that fears potential broadband access problems via no net neutrality. 
  • Third, there are some serious competitive conflicts of interest going on here between eBay and Google.
    • The mature auction webopoly, EBay  apparently was successful in teaching aspiring search webopoly, Google, a thing or to about competition on the web.
    • The message was "don't mess  with my webopoly, go dominate another corner of the Internet.
  • Fourth, it appears Google got the message and realized it is in their profit maximizing interest to not fully compete with eBay, but focus its efforts on further dominating its access to content "corner" of the Internet by buying up DoubleClick and Feedburner.     

MySpace's bizzare flirtation with Yahoo; Yahoo exiting search?

I was surprised in yesterday's news splashes on the potential swap of MySpace to Yahoo for roughly a quarter of Yahoo.

I am blogging on this because the news follow-up does not appear to have connected the dots about how bizarre this combination sounds economically and competitively.

While on the surface it seems logical because Yahoo was reportedly in talks to buy MySpace before NewsCorp did.

What makes this bizarre is what has transpired since.

  • NewsCorp took the no revenue MySpace exploding growth audience and did a deal with Google which guaranteed MySpace a minimum of $900m in ad revenue over four years.

GREAT article on privacy: "Is Google too big" PC World

Anyone concerned about their privacy should read the GREAT article in PC World on Google and privacy, and in particular should look at the call out box to see the risk about all that Google knows about you.  

  • The article does a great job of explaining all the ways that others and the government could easily access tons of private information on you via Google's huge cache of private information on you.
  • Google is quickly becoming the enabler of George Orwell's feared "Big Brother" in "1984."

Let's see if the mainstream press picks up on this obvious and interesting populist story... it has legs.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths