clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Google and Facebook are booming. Is the rest of the digital ad business sinking?


Heavy Rain Sweeps Britain For A Second Day Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

It’s finally happening: Advertisers have started moving big chunks of their budgets from traditional media to the internet, and digital advertising is booming.

At Google and Facebook, that is. Everyone else in digital is shrinking.

That’s the conclusion you can draw from numbers crunched by Jason Kint, who runs Digital Content Next, a trade group representing digital publishers and content companies.*

Kint compared numbers from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group that represents digital advertisers, along with publicly reported numbers from Google and Facebook. He concluded that those two companies accounted for all of the growth in U.S. digital advertising in the first half of this year.

Kint estimates that Google, which saw its ad revenue grow 22 percent in the first half of the year, accounted for 60 percent of the ad market’s year-over-year growth, while Facebook, which grew 67 percent, accounted for 43 percent of the growth.

That’s a total growth of 103 percent, if you’re keeping score. Which means that the rest of the industry collectively shrank.

This is the kind of stat — like the one that estimates that Google and Facebook account for 85 percent of every new dollar spent on digital — that cheers Google and Facebook investors and terrifies many other people.

Is it true? Could be!


  • Kint isn’t arguing that every other company in the digital advertising ecosystem is shrinking — just that collectively, they are.
  • There are three different data sources here: Google’s publicly reported numbers, Facebook’s publicly reported numbers and the IAB’s numbers, which are assembled, via survey, by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Which means this isn’t apples to apples. Probably more of an apples/pears comparison. Kint, for example, has to guesstimate how much Google is making in the U.S. versus the rest of the world, since the company doesn’t break that number out specifically.
  • David Silverman, who worked on the study for PWC, won’t comment on specific companies in his survey or Kint’s math. But he argues that simply comparing publicly reported numbers with the work his group did won’t get you an accurate comparison.

On the other hand:

  • Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, performed the same exercise as Kint this week and reached a similar conclusion: Google + Facebook = all the growth, with everyone else shrinking a collective 5 percent.

Again, the way you view this kind of data will depend on your perspective. If you own shares of Facebook, which reports its Q3 numbers today, you’re very happy — you own one of the two dominant digital distribution platforms, and your position looks increasingly strong.

If you’re someone who competes with Google and Facebook for ad dollars, then you are ... worried.

And if you’re someone who runs a giant content company, who wants to sell that company to a giant telco, you might use this kind of data to argue that it’s healthy for someone really big to take on Google and Facebook for internet ad dollars. And that regulators should let your deal pass, so you can try to take on the big guys yourself.

Which is what Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said today.

* Vox Media, which owns this site, is a member of Digital Content Next.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.