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David vs Goliath: Why one U.S. hyperlocal publisher took on Google

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It takes a brave publisher to accuse a company worth $1,492Bn that they “kick the living sh*t out of publishers for advertising revenue” but a small hyperlocal community publisher in New Jersey decided to do just that. The result? A subpoena.

When hyperlocal news publisher and ad tech pioneer Kenny Katzgrau called Google a “fatter-than-fat tick on the ass of publishing” who had “kicked the living sh*t out of publishers for advertising revenue” in a blog, he was saying what some publishers are too wise—and cautious—to voice. (Did we mention “mindless and largely indifferent collective”? Or “True 1984 stuff”?)

But he was so repulsed with the idea of not saying something, he felt he had no choice—even if it ticked off the Googleplex. Again. Because Kenny, publisher of the 17-year-old local news outlet in New Jersey,, had already been subpoenaed by Google’s defense team in its antitrust showdown against the United States Department of Justice and a coalition of 17 states, who argue that Google’s advertising practices have created an uneven playing field.

And then, a few days later, he was served by the very same justice department. In the same trial.

The reason?

Kenny had written a punchy and rather comprehensive guide on how small publishers can fight back against Google by delivering more value than advertisers can get through Google Ads. His eBook, with the self-explanatory title Ten Advantages: How Magazine and Hyperlocal News Publishers Will Win in the Era of Google and Facebook, details the killer edge local and B2B publishers have on the ad sales front if they know how to use these advantages.

Unleashing the underdog

Like many publishers globally, we share Kenny’s concern about dependence on the Silicon Valley giants, although we have writer’s envy that we didn’t coin the “fatter-than-fat tick on the ass of publishing” phrase. And, like Kenny, we are passionate about local and B2B publishers who know their communities best because they are part of them and not outsiders. Local publishers have a relationship with their communities—they need local advertising, and communities need local journalism to thrive. We know how vital sincere, hyperlocal news entrepreneurs are, and we know how tough it is to survive.

Despite some positives (working with Google), publishers should be wary. There are inherent conflicts of interest as Google is a major industry competitor while simultaneously playing a significant role in education and support for publishers. The ongoing federal antitrust case against Google highlights this complicated relationship.

Eric Shanfelt, Nearview Media, Colorado covering the case in his blog

So, we talked to Kenny about how local publishers can challenge the tech giants, delving into how they can differentiate themselves, be true partners to their advertisers, and exploit the big players’ weaknesses of standardization and commoditization. Kenny tells us how his experience in the industry led to him writing the subpoena-inducing eBook, and we discuss the advantages local publishers have.

P.S. On the importance of hyperlocal journalism, Kenny points out what a thankless job it is. But, he says, “They are the people who will do the digging, and they will stand up for what they believe in. And you need people to do that. The world around us needs them to exist. Democracy itself needs them to exist.”

P.S.S. Kenny writes the blog Living on a Prayer. You can follow progress of the trial there.

Amen, Kenny. Amen. Now go get them.

Adri Kotze