Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Looks Forward to an Early Christmas Present From Washington: An Okay for Admeld

Google’s deal to buy ad tech start-up Admeld, announced in June, looks like it is finally ready to close.

Industry sources expect the Department of Justice, who had been reviewing the $400 million transaction for antitrust violations, to approve the deal in the next couple weeks, perhaps as early as this Friday.

It’s unclear whether the DOJ will impose any restrictions on the deal. But Web ad players, reading tea leaves and DOJ body language, are betting the sale goes through unhindered. No comment from Google; I’ve yet to hear back from a Department of Justice rep. UPDATE: “Our investigation is ongoing,” a DOJ spokeswoman emails.

Admeld helps publishers sell their ads by negotiating bids from multiple buyers, and is a big player in the complicated and fractured display advertising business. Google, which has long been dominant in search advertising, has been steadily increasing its presence in display ads via acquisitions like DoubleClick and Invite Media.

So it was easy to see why regulators might give another big deal some scrutiny. In fact, at this point, every big deal Google makes will get a hard look from Washington, which is already pursuing a broad antitrust investigation. But so far regulators have yet to stop a deal, including Google’s $750 million acquisition of AdMob and its more recent deal for ITA. Next up: The $12.5 billion Googorola deal.

The DOJ first began looking at Google-Admeld six months ago, and in late July extended their review. At the time, Google published a blog post explaining why the company couldn’t dominate display ads, even while its executives told Wall Street it had big ambitions in display.

More recently, Google has gotten help making its case from competitors. Facebook, for instance, is already ahead of Google in the display ad market, at least by the estimation of some analysts.

And Yahoo, which still competes fiercely with Google for display ad dollars, has put together a battle plan designed specifically to take on Google: It has lined up a coalition of big Web players with AOL and Microsoft, and it has begun pulling back its inventory from third-party ad buyers, including Google’s Invite Media.

(Image credit: iStockphoto/alexsl)

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald