Google Shuts Off TV Ads Business

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

After five years of trying to sell ads on television using the automated buying system that works so well for its signature search ads, Google has finally given up. In a blog post this afternoon from Shishir Mehrotra, VP of YouTube and video, the ad giant said it will shunt the group’s staff to other projects:

Video is increasingly going digital and users are now watching across numerous devices. So we’ve made the hard decision to close our TV Ads product over the next few months and move the team to other areas at Google. We’ll be doubling down on video solutions for our clients (like YouTube, AdWords for Video, and ad serving tools for web video publishers). We also see opportunities to help users access web content on their TV screens, through products like Google TV.

The shutdown is clearly a disappointment for Google, yet another sign that its math-driven advertising systems don’t readily translate to traditional advertising. Back in 2009, the company shut down radio and print ad efforts for lack of interest.

Mehrotra’s not being entirely disingenuous when he says that Google’s efforts are better spent on online video advertising. After all, more and more TVs get connected to the Internet and more and more people watch TV shows on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. With its Google TV project and its fast-growing YouTube video service, Google remains in a prime position to vacuum up ad revenues as big advertisers start to follow their audience onto the Web.

Indeed, YouTube especially has shown considerable traction in attracting new ad spending–$3.6 billion this year, by the reckoning of Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney. As I wrote in a recent story, YouTube is where Google is placing its television-scale bets:

Now Mehrotra’s goal is to try to grab a big chunk of the $60 billion U.S. television business. But to do that, and fend off TV-content-oriented online rivals such as Hulu, YouTube has to become a bit more like conventional TV. To that end, it organized itself last year into TV-like channels, investing $100 million in cable-quality launches from Ashton Kutcher, Madonna, the Wall Street Journal, and dozens of others. More and more TV advertisers are being won over, says David Cohen, chief media officer at the media buying agency Universal McCann. “They’re getting marketers to think about YouTube as a viable outlet,” he says. 

Mehrotra, who last year became ­YouTube’s vice president of product, envisions millions of online channels disrupting TV, just as cable’s 400 channels disrupted the four broadcast networks. “We want to be the host of that next generation of channels,” he says.

In other words, Google’s strategy is to attack the TV ad business from where it’s strong instead of from where it’s not.

About these ads

Why Do Programmers Hate Internet Advertising So Much?

Facebook ad question (Photo credit: renaissancechambara)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Another week, another pontificating programmer slamming online advertising. What is it with these guys?

The latest example is a steaming heap of linkbait from software developer and entrepreneur Patrick Dobson entitled Facebook Should Fire Sheryl Sandberg. That would be the chief operating officer of Facebook, whose purported crime is that she steered Facebook toward being an ad-supported company.

In Dobson’s telling, while Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was off at an ashram in India, onetime Google ad exec Sandberg mandated that Facebook would henceforth be an advertising company. Proof of her folly? Facebook’s now worth half of what it was at its IPO three months ago as it “continues to flounder in advertising hell.”

This, despite the fact that Facebook will gross about $5 billion in ad revenues this year, despite the fact that its current market cap is still more than $40 billion less than eight years after the company’s founding in a Harvard dorm.

Thousands of Web developers would love to flounder this badly.

Dobson’s preferred alternative is that Facebook should gradually phase out advertising in favor of–and I have to get technical here, because the bigger picture he provides is fuzzy–selling access to its application programming interface. That way, developers can build businesses like Zynga did on top of the social network in the way personal computer software developers built applications atop Microsoft’s Windows. From his post:

… There is massive value in the social graph and the ability to build applications on top of it. I believe the value is greater than all of the advertising revenue generated on the web to date. … What is the best way to monetize the social graph? To sell access to the social graph! … Developers can then figure out if advertising, or micro transactions, or payed access is the best way to monetize the social graph.

I’m not really sure what “selling access to the social graph” would be, though it sounds like the result could make Facebook’s many privacy gaffes to date look tame.

But the bigger problem is the persistent implication by tech folks like Dobson that advertising is beneath them, and beneath any intelligent human being. Now, I’m no huge fan of most advertising, and all too often it is indeed lame. But there’s no doubt it can be useful at the right place and time, and even when it misses the mark, advertising is a small, remarkably frictionless price to pay for a whole lot of free Web services.

The notion that advertising is evil, to use a favorite term of Google critics, or at least useless is a longstanding meme in Silicon Valley. It goes at least as far back as Google’s founding, before it became–right–the biggest online ad company on the planet. Cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin famously wrote in their Stanford doctoral thesis describing Google that advertising could pollute search results.

Why this antipathy to advertising? A lot of tech folks seem to believe they’re immune to the influence of advertising. More than that, they assume that no one else is much influenced by it either (despite ample evidence over many decades that ads do influence people’s attitudes and behavior). Therefore, the reasoning goes, ads are nothing more than an annoyance, an inefficient allocation of capital. Dobson accuses Sandberg of a “rampant lack of business creativity” that has “no place in centers of innovation,” later saying she should start an ad agency in Miami. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Here’s How Badly Google Wants To Make Nexus 7 Tablet A Hit

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Only a couple of times has Google deigned to clutter its famously spartan home page with advertising. This is one of those times.

Today, Google is running an ad below its search box for the Nexus 7, the seven-inch tablet that it hopes will steal a march on Apple’s enormously popular iPads. Why now? Google hasn’t said, but it seems likely the ad push is looking ahead to Apple’s expected October release of the seven- to eight-inch iPad Mini, as well as to the expected announcement of Amazon.com’s new Kindle Fire next week.

As tablets take the computing market by storm, Google clearly views them as a critical device on which to make sure its search and other services, and the advertising that rides atop them, continue to be front and center. I remain doubtful about whether Google itself really wants to become a full-on maker of hardware, Motorola Mobility acquisition aside. But at the very least, a successful Nexus 7 could spark other manufacturers to pick up the pace of innovation in tablets.

That’s all the more critical in the wake of Apple’s big win in court last week, when Samsung was found to be infringing multiple Apple patents. Although Google’s underlying Android software was not directly involved, the jury’s ruling cast a pall on Android’s potential for further gains vs. the iPhone and the iPad.

The Nexus 7 spot marks a rare appearance of a Google ad on its home page, though not the first one. The company also ran ads for Motorola’s and Verizon’s Droid phone in 2009, followed by one for Google’s own Nexus One phone a few months later. It also has promoted other Google products, including the T-Mobile G1 phone in 2008. And just a few days ago, if you hovered over the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, you got alternative messages that sent you to other Google services.

Still, don’t expect to see Google start splattering ads all over its home page. After all, then we’d all stop writing about how unusual it is and Google won’t get the free publicity it’s getting right now.

Don’t Pay Any Attention To Facebook’s Q2 Earnings Report

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

To hear almost everyone tell it, Facebook’s earnings results Thursday will be a huge test of whether it will become the blockbuster business success so many investors have bet on. “Facebook Efforts on Advertising Face a Day of Judgment,” intones the New York Times. “Big financial test for Facebook,” blares the dead-tree version of the hometown Mercury News. “There is a lot on the line,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

It’s all a crock. Manufactured journalistic drama. Not that any quarter for such a fast-growing, newly public, highly influential, and closely watched company is unimportant. Of course it’s important. Especially given the underwhelming IPO, investors have a right to information that might tell them if their shares will be heading up or down.

But this won’t be a bellwether for Facebook’s long-term future. Fact is, no one should look to this quarter, or even the next, to determine whether Facebook can fulfill expectations that it will become the next Google.

Why? Because it’s too early. Way too early. Nobody, probably including Facebook, yet knows for sure what kind of advertising and marketing works at large scale in social networking. Facebook is clearly experimenting with a variety of ad formats, such as its socially infused Sponsored Stories. Just as clearly, it’s not apparent that it has found its equivalent of Google’s search ad or television’s 30-second spot. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

No Larry Page, But Google Q2 Profits Beat Forecast on Light Sales

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Providing a sign that online advertising continues to shine in a tough economy, Google reported a second-quarter net profit today of $2.79 billion, or $8.42 a share, up 11%, on a 35% jump in sales to $12.21 billion. Non-GAAP profit per share, the one analysts track, came in at $10.12, a little above the Street’s $10.04.

Those revenues included six weeks of its recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google revenues alone were $10.96 billion, up 21%. Either way, revenues after payments to website partners were $8.36 billion, a bit lighter than analysts’ forecast of $8.41 billion.

In trading immediately after the close, shares rose about 5%, then eased back to a steady 3% gain. Google’s shares closed up today about 2%, to $593.06.

Although Street estimates were iffy given the addition of Motorola Mobility to Google’s results for the first time, Citi analyst Mark Mahaney was expecting a $9.99 non-GAAP profit per share on $12.45 billion in gross revenue. Without Motorola, he was expecting $10.76 billion in gross revenues, $8.23 billion in net revenues after payments to website partners. You can listen to the archived analyst call on Google’s YouTube channel.

The upshot after the call: Google executives sounded a confident tone about the business, though insight about Motorola was almost non-existent. In particular, Google appears committed to making mobile advertising pay off, shrugging off concerns about low mobile ad prices.

Google partners don’t seem worried about that either. Jared Belsky, executive VP at digital ad agency 360i, said in an interview that he thinks the rapid rise in mobile computing should be a net positive for Google simply because people are searching more hours of the day now. “This is a strategy for the long term,” says Belsky, who notes that its clients’ mobile ad search spending is now 14% of the total–an increase of 300% from a year ago. “Increasingly they’ll be able to monetize it.” Even more important, he says clicks on mobile ads have risen 300% as well as marketers provide better landing pages and people get more comfortable clicking on the ads as a result.

And the call begins.

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

What Mobile Advertising Problem? Search Ads Zoom On Tablets, Smartphones

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Worries that mobile advertising will never amount to much have investors worries about even relatively strong companies such as Google and Facebook. And there’s reason for concern, from whether people want their little smartphone or even tablet screens cluttered with ads to whether advertisers will ever be able to know, for instance, that someone who sees an ad then went into a physical store and bought something.

For now, though, the advertisers who command the marketing budgets don’t seem too concerned. According to a new report, search ads in particular are growing rapidly on mobile devices, especially tablets. The study, from online ad management firm Marin Software, points up several interesting trends, pretty much all of them a positive for advertisers and search engines–mainly Google, since it still owns 81% of all search ad spending.

First, a lot more clicks on search ads are coming from mobile devices, says Marin Marketing VP Matt Lawson. In the U.S., mobile devices accounted for 18% of paid search clicks, up from 14% in the first quarter. And in an indication of a surge in tablet ownership and use, the share of clicks on tablets, at 8%, was up 33% in the quarter.

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Wait, So Apple’s Siri Won’t Kill Google Search After All?

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Just a few months ago, some folks were suggesting that Apple’s voice assistant Siri would kill Google’s search by offering a more natural way for people to find what they want online–without annoying ads, either.

Honestly, the notion sounded at best rather ahead of itself at the time. But now, it seems Google’s search service–specifically aided by its just-announced Google Now, the voice-enabled personal search assistant that’s part of the new version of the company’s Android mobile operating system–has actually turned the tables on Siri. According to several people who have pitted the two services against each other, Google search smokes Siri. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Don’t Kid Yourself–Project Glass Will Produce An Advertising Bonanza For Google

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

One of the first questions about Project Glass, the augmented-reality glasses that Google debuted in fine style this week with a skydiving stunt in San Francisco, was whether we’d see ads plastered on the tiny screen in front of our faces.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has been championed this project to create a new kind of wearable computer, couldn’t have made his intentions clearer: No plans for ads. That’s despite the helpful video above that one wag created to show Google just how ads might work on Glass.

But make no mistake: While I think that, like the driverless car, Project Glass is cool and groundbreaking enough that Brin and the company for now simply want to see where it goes, Google’s advertising business could be a big beneficiary. And maybe not too long after they hit the streets next year for software developers and the year after that for consumers. Here’s how:

* Google will now know what you’re likely to want next–right here, right now. Already, smartphones are providing Google and others the ability to know where you are and serve you ads from nearby businesses. But potentially with Glass devices, Google will also be able to see and analyze not just where you are but what you’re looking at. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

LIVE From Google I/O, Day 2: Google Compute Engine Takes On Amazon Web Services

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior VP of Chrome and Apps, at Google I/O June 28

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

It’s all about the Web here on Day 2 of Google’s annual I/O developer conference–Google’s Web. In contrast to yesterday’s focus on the search giant’s Android mobile operating software, today will focus on the power of the Web, in particular Google’s Chrome operating software for cloud computing.

There’s another keynote whose highlights I will liveblog below, though it’s hard to see how Google will outdo yesterday’s skydiving demo of Google Glass wearable computers. No doubt Google has reserved a surprise or two, though.

Update: The big announcement is Google Compute Engine, a rival to Amazon Web Services, which powers many websites. It’s promising it will offer 50% more compute power for the price. Also, Google Docs now will work offline when you don’t have an Internet connection, solving a big obstacle. Offline presentations and spreadsheets to follow later. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Here’s How One Marketer Made Google Mobile Ads Pay Off

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Amid widespread concerns that mobile advertising may never work as well as ads served to people’s desktop and laptop computers, several companies are attempting to prove the naysayers wrong. Facebook partners piled on earlier this week with studies showing the social network’s mobile ads produce way more clicks and revenues than its desktop ads.

Now it’s Google’s turn. This morning it’s trotting out, along with updated mobile search ads, a case study of how T-Mobile last year used Google mobile search ads to try to get more new customer activations to its cellular service. Kari Nicholas, T-Mobile’s director of media, said in an interview that the company aimed to do that by making it easier to sign up online or reach them via their existing mobile phone to visit nearby stores.

The main goal, given that most people doing a search on T-Mobile or other more general wireless-related words such as smartphones or 4G are likely to be well down the path to getting a new phone or service, was to guide those searchers quickly and easily to the nearest store. So the campaign served separate ads to mobile users, automatically showing both the nearest store on a map and a click-to-call button. The company also served different ads depending on whether the person had an Android or an iPhone or was on a particular service such as Verizon or T-Mobile.

The results: In one month, the campaign attracted 162,000 people to T-Mobile’s website. The mobile search ads tied to a person’s location got a lot of clicks–a 13% click-through rate, which is orders of magnitude higher than standard display ads. And the ads also generated 20,000 phone calls to stores. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers