“Google and Facebook will fall if their advertising dominance continues”

Google and Facebook’s dominance may destroy tradition news media, but the pair’s dominance will just as likely take them down also says media commentator, Rick Waghorn.

Plus the former newspaper journalist and founder of the Adiply advertising platform believes the dominant two are not respecting advertisers – which could make them turn away in droves when they tire of the complexity, lack of control, and likelihood that their adverts will appear alongside fake news and unsavoury content such as the views of terrorist groups.

Waghorn says the two US tech giants now control more than 90 per cent of advertising income in the US and will control 71 per cent of the UK advert market by 2021.

This, he says, “has everyone from Rupert Murdoch down, running for their nearest government minister in a bid to clip the wings of Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and friends.”

“But state intervention, as currently sought, is to my mind invariably the last act of the damned,” he says.

“The fact that Facebook and Google are, between them, bringing 3,500 hi-tech jobs to London this year makes their hand ever stronger when it comes to the shaping of policy with regard to the hard-pressed legacy publishers by an incoming government.”

But the former Oxford history scholar says history can be valuable in helping predict where this dominance will lead.

“Complex societies as the Mayans, the Chacoans, the Romans and, by implications, the Facebooks, collapse quite naturally when the costs of being a member of said society come to out-weight the original rewards,” says Waghorn.

He argues that when no-one else can create income in the digital advertising market, a tipping point will be reached where those that can be seen to be controlling the entire income stream become targets for toppling, and campaigns such as boycotts ensue.

“If Mark and Sergey don’t heed the lessons of history; don’t heed the warning shot that Press Gazette has fired across their bows and return to a more equitable share of the digital spoils, they will fall,” says Waghorn, who points to the world’s biggest advertiser, Proctor & Gamble, as an indicative scenario.

“This week they pulled USD 1.5bn out of the global advertising space because they weary of the cost of complexity,” he says.

“A complexity in which fake news thrives and in which household brands find themselves ‘supporting’ jihadi videos. The ‘cost’ can be as much to brand perception as it can be to P&G’s bottom line.”

Proctor & Gamble’s CFO Jon Moeller earlier told investors: “We’re working to lead the effort on media transparency, eliminating costs in the media supply chain created by poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework, too many hidden touches, too many holes, where criminals can rip us off and unsafe places for our brands to have ads.”

What’s your take on this? Is history a good indicator for the new and largely unexplored area of digital media and online duopolies? Send us your view on our feedback form.