By    Adi Robertson , a senior tech and policy editor focused on VR, online platforms, and free expression. Adi has covered video games, biohacking, a

Google quietly raised ad prices to boost search revenue, says executive

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2023-09-19 17:00:13

By Adi Robertson , a senior tech and policy editor focused on VR, online platforms, and free expression. Adi has covered video games, biohacking, and more for The Verge since 2011.

As the second week of the US v. Google antitrust trial gets underway, the Department of Justice is focusing on the real moneymaker behind Google Search: ads. It alleges that Google’s dominance lets it raise prices for advertisers with few repercussions — a claim backed up by Google ads executive Jerry Dischler on the stand.

Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen has the details of Dischler’s testimony, where he describes statements he made under oath in 2020. Dischler says Google tweaks its auction process in ways that may have raised prices in the past by 5 percent for the typical advertiser and could potentially have raised them by 10 percent for some queries. The parties buying the ads would have been unaware of these “tunings” of prices; “we tend not to tell advertisers about pricing changes,” Dischler said.

Raising ad prices was apparently one way for Google to increase search revenue during dry spells — one of which apparently occurred in the spring of 2019, according to an email chain involving Dischler and fellow Google executive Anil Sabharwal. “We are shaking the cushions” on ads launches, Dischler writes in the email. The email also describes other options for boosting revenue that include making Search more prominent for Chrome users.

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