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Slate Misses the Point on Google’s Data Domination

November 12, 2014

Jordan Weissmann in Slate offered this explanation to explain what happened when Google’s ad servers “went down”:

As Napier Lopez succinctly put it on the blog of TNW during the outage, “It’s likely affecting millions of advertisements across the Web and could cause advertisers to lose a whole lot of money collectively.”

The company controls slightly less than a third of all digital advertising dollars but is probably even more dominant when it comes to serving display ads for online publishers (I haven’t been able to track down specific market-share data on that front). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having an absolutely giant marketplace where websites and advertisers can buy and sell ad space makes the business more efficient. But if something goes wrong with Google’s hardware, the company apparently turns into the world’s most powerful ad blocker. [emphasis mine]

What do most people do when they pay for something that the supplier screws up?

Ask for a refund, maybe?

I don’t know advertising contracts, but I assume they have some kind of force majeure/massive failure/uptime loophole that Google would try to wriggle through.  Even so, if I’m an advertiser that spends a bunch of money with Google, or an ad agency like WPP, I want a make good or a refund.  Naturally, the little advertiser will be SOL, but then that’s Google.

However–it has to be a triumph of Google’s “catch me if you can” culture that the first thing that gets reported when Google screws up ad delivery is that the advertisers lose money.

And Weissmann misses the point entirely with his monopoly worship.  More efficient.  Is it also more efficient for one company to collect so much data that they have dominance over that space, too?

Much more efficient for the NSA, so that’s a good thing, right Mr. Weissmann?

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