Now it’s War: Apple vs Google vs Facebook


Spy vs Spy edit

It’s an all-out war between Apple, Google and Facebook, with small website publishers the collateral damage. That’s how Nilay Patel, Editor-in-Chief for The Verge, sees ad blocking, referencing Apple’s newly-released iOS 9 as the latest salvo in a titanic battle between the companies.

In a thinkpiece published last week, Patel reminds us that while Google makes most of its money from search (“there’s no other company that’s managed to monetize the web quite like Google”), the mobile ecosystem (devices, browsers and apps) represents a huge challenge for the company. He says that Apple is using its mobile dominance, through both the iPhone and Mobile Safari, to “drive the knife into Google’s revenue platform”.

Apple, of course, makes its money from selling ever shinier versions of its iPhones and iPads, and doesn’t really care if people want to block ads.

Like Google, Apple is also indexing app content in iOS 9, and showing app results within Spotlight and Siri so that, in some cases, iOS users no longer need search the web.

As for Facebook, the company makes its money from keeping mobile users in the Facebook app, where it controls the advertising.

Patel’s conclusion? It’s going to get ugly: “the collateral damage…is going to include the web, and in particular any small publisher on the web that can’t invest in proprietary platform distribution, native advertising, and the type of media wining-and-dining it takes to secure favorable distribution deals on proprietary platforms. It is going to be a bloodbath of independent media.”

Why should you care?

Patel cautions that this battle, primarily between Apple and Google, threatens the survival of online publishers providing ad-supported content free of charge. He adds that innovation, too, will suffer.

Yes, the top-selling paid app in Apple’s App Store (the ad blocker Peace) was pulled 48 hours after release (the developer having had a fit of conscience). But there are plenty of other ad blockers out there, used on desktops as well as mobile devices.

As advertisers, our seats are on the sideline, spectators as this battle plays out.

What can we do? Making better, more relevant ads, would be a start.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.