BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis was part of a “private meeting” in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum with Google CEO Eric Shmidt and a handful of other top Google execs. Jarvis reports that Google sales boss Nikesh Arora said that Google “would consider giving more transparency about revenue splits in Adsense” (this is likely a paraphrase).
Traffic acquisition costs (TAC) for AdSense partners are roughly 72% in the aggregate, meaning the overall partner payout for the Google content network. Transparency is one thing; getting a “fair share” of revenues that Google generates from AdSense is another.
The latter is a particularly sore point among traditional media and newspaper publishers. At the recent DLD conference in Munich the CEO of conference sponsor Burda Media, Paul-Bernhard Kallen, chastized Google’s chief lawyer David Drummond for a lack of transparency and for not paying more to publishers:
Kallen [ ] fleshed out his objections to Google, calling first for transparency, second for a “fair share” of revenues, and third – possibly the most ominous for Google – clear rules defining what kinds of businesses you’re allowed to be in if you’re an infrastructure company. He then rammed it home by reading out – in German – the relevant sections of Google’s AdSense Ts & Cs: the ones that say Google gets to decide how much or how little you get, and that it’s not going to tell you what percentage of the total take that it gets (more or less).
Google is walking a fine line, seeking to protect its competitive and proprietary interests but also increasingly needing to accommodate some of its critics and partners’ demands. Failure to do so will likely turn into regulatory problems in the near term — as governments, particularly in Europe, are unwilling to see their media industries entirely succumb to the disruptive force of the Internet (here synonymous with Google).
Four months ago, CEO Eric Schmidt also told Search Engine Land editor-in-chief Danny Sullivan that Google might reveal its AdSense cut.