Digital gatekeepers as meta-organization members: the case of the Coalition for Better Ads

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Auteur(s) Théophile Megali
Type de publication Working paper

Digital platforms, thanks to their intermediary position, can act as gatekeepers and restrict the access to groups of users or to some goods. They constitute powerful market players thanks to this ability. What is the specificity of their membership, when they join a meta-organization (MO)? In this article, we answer these questions through a case study that documents the rise of online ad-blocking and the emergence of a MO in response to this phenomenon. Ad-blocking represents a major threat to the online advertising market, as it conceals almost a third of its potential audience and generates a corresponding shortfall in revenue for operators. To address this issue, a group of firms – the Coalition for Better Ads – has emerged to enforce online ad formats quality standards across the industry. By this in-depth qualitative case study, we show that the collective problem could be solved thanks to a technical capability brought by several digital gatekeepers. To this end, the MO delegates the access to several organizational elements to this firm (i.e. sanction and monitoring). Providing such delegation might reinforce the power of these members and contribute to alter the organization of the whole market at their advantage. Reciprocally, establishing a MO brings legitimacy in this process, which is required to make these changes acceptable, and eventually supports the action of gatekeepers.

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