To save the news, shatter ad-tech

Structural separation will help the news claim their fair share.

Cory Doctorow
5 min readMay 25


I’m coming to the HowTheLightGetsIn festival in HAY-ON-WYE with my novel Red Team Blues:

I’m at OXFORD’s Blackwell’s on May 29 at 7:30PM with Tim Harford.

Then it’s Nottingham, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, and Berlin!

Big Tech steals from news, but what it steals isn’t content. Talking about the news isn’t theft, and neither is linking to it, or excerpting it. But stealing money? That’s definitely theft.

Big Tech steals money from the news media. 51% of every ad-dollar is claimed by a tech intermediary, a middleman that squats on a chokepoint between advertisers and publishers. Two companies — Google and Meta — dominate this sector, and both of these companies are “full-stack” — which is cutesy techspeak for “vertical monopoly.”

Here’s what that means: when an advertiser wants to place an ad, it contracts with the “demand-side platform” (DSP) to seek out a chance to put an ad in front of a user based on nonconsensually gathered surveillance data about a potential customer.

The DSP contacts an ad-exchange — a marketplace where advertisers bid against each other to cram their ads into the eyeballs of a user based on surveillance data matches.

The ad-exchange receives a constant stream of chances to place ads. This stream is generated by the “supply-side platform” (SSP), a service that represents publishers who want to sell ads.

Meta/Facebook and Google both the “full stack” of ads: they represent buyers and sellers, and they operate the marketplace. When the sale closes, Googbook collects a commission from the advertiser, another from the publisher, and a fee for running the market. And of course, Google and Facebook are both publishers and advertisers.

This is like a stock exchange where one company operates the exchange, while serving as broker and underwriter for every stock bought or sold, while owning huge amounts of stock in many of the listed companies as well as owning the largest…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: