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Dear publishers, Google’s got news for you

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Credit: Michael Short/Bloomberg


Dear publishers, Google’s got news for you

Publishers have many reasons to be unhappy with the walled gardens of Facebook but most recently they have been upset with Google’s moves as part of its GDPR compliance.

Four major trade bodies that represent some 4,000 publishers from around the globe found themselves in a standoff with Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai in May over how the company was working with publishers to become GDPR compliant. Some publishing executives said that Google’s public statements don’t match its actions, arguing that the company is really using its dominance in the digital ad ecosystem to improve its advantage while giving publishers the short end of the stick.

Now, Google has news and it’s good. Mostly.

In a reversal, Google announced last week that publishers could work with as many vendors as they like when using its content management platform, more commonly known as a CMP.

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A CMP is a critical piece of software that helps websites comply with GDPR by soliciting visitors’ consent for various companies’ use of their data to improve site performance or personalize advertising. Publishers work with anywhere from two-dozen vendors to hundreds of them. But publishers that used Google’s CMP, called Funding Choices, were capped at working with just 12 vendors.

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“Based on industry and customer feedback, we have decided to remove the 12-vendor limit for publishers that use Funding Choices to obtain user consent on their website,” a Google spokeswoman says in a statement.

Good news or not?

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While some are seeing this move as a win for publishers, others are skeptical, suggesting that it is merely a compromise between Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) consent framework, as thousands of ad-tech companies feared Google’s 12-vendor cap could thwart innovation within the industry (and also put many companies out of business).

“This is a sad attempt to try and win over the ad tech vendor complex while maintaining Google’s dominant control over the ad supply chain,” says Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a publisher trade body that represents publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast and Meredith. “Google’s last-minute moves around GDPR have been an abuse of their power and at odds with most of the industry.”

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