Advertising Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Publishers: Redefining a healthy internet ecosystem

The pending Department of Justice vs. Google adtech case will likely be pivotal in what happens in the future to the open web

Most publishers can agree that the distribution of advertising is inherently skewed— as of 2022, it is estimated that 77% of the advertising market is going to walled gardens, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. With only 23% left to contribute to the open web, these imbalanced scales can have real-world effects on the health of the internet, and independent publishers. 

For publishers, the open web provides a wealth of opportunity, allowing them to monetize their site without having to adhere to the strict guidelines of a walled garden. For advertisers, the open web provides an opportunity to gain a more holistic picture of their ideal consumers, without having to weave through an increasingly-tangled web of walled gardens’ data and policies. 

The pending Department of Justice vs. Google adtech case will likely be pivotal in what happens in the future to the open web. The open web has to hold or grow its market share to maintain the democratization of the internet, for publishers, advertisers and consumers. 

As the world awaits further developments in the pending monopoly case, independent publishers have an excellent opportunity to reevaluate their business models, and to emphasize their unique attributes to advertisers.

An Anticompetitive AdTech Industry 

The practices of long-standing walled gardens have inherently been skewered against content creators. For those relying on a free and competitive digital market to buy and sell relevant advertising, Google throws a particularly complicated wrench into this dynamic. Metaphorically speaking, in the adtech transaction, Google owns both the stadium and the players (as well as the referees). The Justice Department reports that Google pockets, on average, more than 30% of the advertising dollars that flow through its digital advertising technology. 

To this point, this has left publishers with little choice but to accept the rates they are paid utilizing Google’s advertising solution. As such an overwhelmingly dominant force in the market, Google’s storied history of squashed competitors is no secret— see their extensive technological graveyard including names like Yelp, AppNexus and Marin. This leads to a stymie on innovation in the adtech space, and ensures that the biggest players not only stay center stage— but also pull the strings, behind the scenes. 

It is vital that a free and open market be maintained for innovation to occur in the adtech space for the benefit of publishers. 

With the suit against Google’s pending, advertisers are primed to start to diversify their toolkits. Publishers have the audience and finally the bargaining power to sway the innovation in their favor. 

Generating Competition 

The decline in direct advertiser-publisher relationships has played a role in the diminishment of competition across the open web. Publishers looking to get ahead can start by taking direct control of their revenue streams. Stop working with tools that only optimize for what works best for their platform, rather than publishers. Publishers need to know their worth and take back their power by only working with partners who recognize and reward this.  

Actively looking into alternative advertising sources creates both competition and demand for publishers’ inventory and audiences. Finding the right advertisers is a balancing act for any publisher— the walled gardens are generally considered to be the “safest” and most trustworthy option, but the payout from independent online advertisers can be significantly higher on the open web. Publishers should think carefully about the types of platforms they use, and the advertisers they want to reach with it. That way, they can begin to build a diverse portfolio of advertising options that work for their individual business, as opposed to being constrained by the diminishing returns of the walled gardens. 

Knowing Your Audience

Increasing privacy regulations are in full effect, and the walled gardens have taken action to heavily restrict access to users’ data— at least, to anyone not utilizing their in-house advertising solutions. This gives publishers a unique advantage over in-house solutions, by allowing them to offer advertisers a more holistic view of their ideal audiences. 

Furthermore, independent publishers often have more highly-curated audiences. Given the rampant competition for consumers’ time and attention, publishers want to make sure they are delivering interesting, timely and relevant content. Understanding more about their unique audiences will help them to deliver this content, and foster a sense of loyalty. This will also make your audience’s interest particularly valuable to advertisers, especially those looking to reach a specific niche. By having as much data as possible on their audience and their interests, publishers can not only optimize their content, but can offer unique value to advertisers, looking for specific audiences.


Change is on the horizon in the adtech industry— and the Department of Justice’s case against Google signifies an important turning point. For publishers looking to maximize their opportunity in this shifting market, generating competition by utilizing a range of new solutions on the open web can help you to create an advertising solution that works for you, as opposed to the major players. In addition, the more you understand about your audience, the more valuable it will be as you look to create unique content and effectively monetize your site. 

Hector Pantazopolous
Co-founder and CRO at SourceKnowledge

Hector Pantazopoulos is the co-founder and CRO of SourceKnowledge. With over ten years of experience in the online advertising and marketing industries, Hector co-founded SourceKnowledge to help e-commerce and retail brands to gain incremental lifts in sales with advertising outside of the walled gardens. He is an advocate of the open web and the benefits it brings to the digital marketplace.