Home // Cover Story


BY Imran Fazal

Share It

The Digital Publishers vs Google fight reaches a crescendo after CCI orders probe against the tech giant accused by the DNPA of unfairly using its dominant position in the digital ad ecosystem, IMPACT brings you a detailed report.

In a major legal tussle between Digital News Publishers Association and Google Inc, the Competition Commission of India in its order dated 7 January, 2022 directed a probe against Google. In its order, CCI stated that prima facie Google has violated the provisions of Section 4(2)(a) (directly or indirectly, imposes unfair or discriminatory) of the Competition Act by using its dominant position in the market which led to further investigations.
Remember the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) was formed over two years ago with the aim to work collaboratively on defining, creating, and fostering the digital news ecosystem in the country. The members of DNPA are Dainik Bhaskar Corp, India Today Group, NDTV Convergence, HT Digital Streams, Indian Express,Times Internet, Amar Ujala, Jagran Prakashan, Eenadu, Malayala Manorama, ABP Network, Express Network, Lokmat Media etc

Digital News Publishers vs Google
IMPACT accessed the complaint copy of Digital News Publishers Association filed with the Competition Commission of India. The complaint raises serious concerns over Google’s working module with the top digital news media agencies in the country. DNPA has accused Google on various violations of the Competition Act, 2002 and largely on not sharing the data pertaining to ad revenue. The members of the association claim that Google is arm-twisting them by using its dominant position in the market and that the news publishers who depend on digital advertising revenues are facing the brunt due to Google’s ‘unilaterally and arbitrarily’ decided revenue sharing model.
The digital publishers have blamed Google for denying them market access while claiming that the impact of concentration of power in the hands of the technological Companies like Google will hinder the innovation and technical development of the news providers and in the absence of ‘fair’ value of its content the democracy in turn will suffer.
interface with the advertiser, the online search engines end up leveraging the revenue/returns much more than the publishers,”
Girish Agarwal, Promoter and Director of Dainik Bhaskar Newspaper Group, whose publication is a member of the DNPA says, “Ideally Google should have found an amicable solution with the publishers but since they wanted to misuse their dominant position, they deliberately didn’t do that and exploited the publishers and pushed them to seek justice through legal route. We are confident that justice will prevail.”

Source: ISBA/PwC supply chain transparency study, 2020

This move by the DNPA comes a year after Australia passed a world-first law aimed at making Google and Facebook pay for news content on their platforms, by encouraging tech giants and news organisations to negotiate payment deals, which many have hailed as a triumph for journalism. Interestingly it also comes around a time when Google in US is facing an anti-trust law suit along with Facebook, which has made serious allegations against Big Tech giants long accused of holding monopolies. In fact, the Google and Facebook duopoly has strengthened its hold on the Indian advertising market with the combined gross ad revenue of Google India and Facebook India Online Services growing to Rs 23,212.5 crore in FY21 from Rs 18,054.9 crore in the previous fiscal which is higher than the combined ad revenue of the top 9-10 media firms in India.

Source: From the DNPA complaint to CCI accessed by IMPACT

How does the digital ecosystem work?
As per the report of statscounter, Google Chrome browser has 98.71% market share in India and is widely used on Android, Apple, Windows, iOS, Linus, etc. Also, as per a study report by ‘Digital Advertising in India 2020’, by Dentsu Aegis Network, 73.33% Indians use Google Chrome on Android devices while 18.54% people use it on While small, emerging publishers will give anything as 25%+ as revenue to Google.”
Rahul Vengalil, Managing Partner, Isobar says, “To explain in a layman’s language, in the past couple of years Google’s DV360 programmatic platform doesn’t specify the revenue share like it did in earlier times. Publishers are asked to submit their rates. They do not get to know what the final rate of inventory sale is. Publishers can get blind-sided by the actual rate of their ad inventory being sold to end advertisers and do not know the real revenue splits.”
Vengalil further says, “Google has the ability and technology to gain leverage over publishers with the algorithms. Do they take undue advantage is a question that only publishers can answer.”
When asked if there is any mechanism to ascertain the revenue share of Google through Search, Shailendra Mehta, Head of Paid Media, Adlift marketing private limited says, “There is no mechanism to know how much revenue is earned by Google. Publisher gets paid for the advertising revenue which Google gains by using news stories, but it only happens when the user clicks on the story, lands on the site and ads get triggered. However, Publishers can leverage Supply Side Platforms (SSP) and create direct deals with advertisers to generate higher percent of revenue on their end.”
Meanwhile The Competition Commission of India on 7 January, 2022 directed a probe against Google after forming a prima facie view that Google has violated a section of Competition Act, 2002. CCI has asked its Director General to probe the matter and submit the investigation report within a period of 60 days.

Is Google leap frogging?

Throwing light on the penalty, Mali adds, “Google being in a dominant position, the punishment if proven guilty can be meted out on two factors, one which is heavily dependent on the CCI Bench and the other on the basis of the losses faced by the DNPA members. Google cannot manipulate the original news item but it extracts the gist of the news in form of snippets from the publisher’s website. There should be a mechanism in which Google should let the user allow which news content they want to Big Tech companies can not only manipulate search results but can also suppress visibility of a publisher’s website, say cyber experts. Ritesh Bhatia, Cybercrime Investigator and Cybersecurity and Data Privacy consultant says, “Google has its own proprietary algorithms and that is how it controls the search results. In simple terms, Google can largely decide and feature any content it wants on their web pages. Google can not only tweak the results but can also make a publisher look bad, by not showing results of certain publishers. Being proprietary algorithms, no one can actually prove it technically or legally until such tech giants are investigated by government authorities. There should be a universal cyber law which is not only global but also comes under the regulations of India. The digital news media publishers instead of getting into good books of Google should seek legal option to make Google adopt the policy formed in Australia.”

CCI orders probe, wants report in 60 days

The CCI order, based on the information available (a copy of which is with IMPACT) states

It appears that the instant information highlights the alleged bargaining power imbalance that flows from the alleged position enjoyed by Google as a necessary trading partner for digital news publishers in accessing online audience as well as in generating digital ad revenue. The case also brings forth the issue of alleged lack of transparency and information asymmetry in the ad tech services provided by Google, which does not allow publishers to optimize the yield on their ad inventory.

Based on the above, the Commission is of prima facie view that Google has violated the provisions of Section 4(2)(a) of the Competition Act, which merits investigation. Further, the Informant has also alleged that abovementioned conduct of Google results in violation of the provisions of Section 4(2)(b)(ii) as well as Section 4(2)(c) of the Act. The Director General can appropriately examine these allegations as well during investigation.

Further, it appears that Google is using its dominant position in the relevant markets to enter/protect its position in the market for news aggregation services in violation of Section 4(2)(e) of the Act, which again merits detailed investigation.


In a detailed interaction with IMPACT Magazine, Sujata Gupta. Secretary General, DNPA reveals what is the basis of this complaint against tech giant, Google and what are they seeking from CCI

Q] Recently, the Competition Commission of India has cracked a whip on Google, ordering a probe against it. This comes after Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) filed a complaint against the tech major for sharing unfair advertising revenue and for unjustly using its monopoly in search and advertising. Do you consider this as a victory?
We have made our submissions to the honourable governing body, on the basis of merit of our case they have asked for further investigations. We have full faith that justice will be served as it will progress further.

Q] What is the current revenue arrangement, how does Google gain by using news stories worked on by publisher platforms?
Since Google is the majority stakeholder in the digital advertising space, they unilaterally decide the amount to be paid to the publishers for the content created by them as also the terms on which the amount has to be paid. The publisher does not even get paid for the snippets Google uses from their platform.

Q] In the Digital publishers vs. Big tech fight, what is your demand which will create a fair game for both sides, what is your expectation from CCI here and what is the possible solution to overcome the problem?
The basic grievance is the use of dominant position by Google in producing search results and sharing the revenue generated by monetization in the event of ‘clicks’ by a user on the Google page. These ‘clicks’ determine the traffic and digital footprints of the end users on a news website. This should be further elaborated in the evidence being submitted to CCI by way of screenshots of how the search engine (Google) functions in a prejudiced manner against certain digital news publishers. The information/evidence submitted to CCI should incorporate the manner in which revenue is shared and the basis thereof (revenue is generated on CPC mode). It should be highlighted that there is no policy or standardized terms for such arrangements of revenue sharing. The policy of sharing the revenue is opaque.
Further, Google may not have sufficient licensing rights to use the content generated by news publishers to showcase their content on its search page. Also, Google is assuming the role of publisher too in some category. The essence of the evidence should be that Google (owing to the dominant position) is dictating terms to the digital news publishers. It should be pointed out that the consequence of such an action on the relevant market is drastic for the market structure. The primary focus of the information/evidence being submitted to CCI should be the disruption of market structure being caused by the unfair trade practices of Google which inadvertently also has influence on the end user.

Share It

Tags : #marketing #Google #Impact #digital #advertising #Publishers #CCI #DNPA #DigitalAd #IMPACTMagazine #coverstory