Google Wants To Own Your Mobile Moments

googmoments

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

For a few months now, Google has been pushing a new vision of advertising in the mobile age: Advertisers, it says, must capture the “micro-moments” when peripatetic consumers land on an app, a video, a website or anywhere else.

That’s increasingly important because despite today’s mobile first” mantra among tech companies and publishers alike, the fact remains that people use all kinds of devices throughout the day to find what they’re looking for online–their phone, their tablet, a laptop, a desktop computer, even an Internet-connected TV. What’s more, these people are often open to commercial messages for only short periods of time in just the right context: the age-old right-place, right-time, right-message but faster and more fleeting than ever.

And so Internet publishers and their advertisers need to reach not just faceless audiences but actual people, or at least detailed profiles attached semi-anonymously to real people. This “people-based marketing” is something Facebook has made huge coin on, and even companies such as Google are playing catch-up.

So today, Google is aiming to close some gaps in its powerful but (in the mobile age) rather less dominant advertising system. …

Read the rest of the story and interview with Google display and video ads VP Neal Mohan.

With Android Pay, Google Closes Gap With Apple In Mobile Payments

From my Forbes.com blog:

Apple vaulted ahead of Google in mobile payments last September when it announced Apple Pay, its long-awaited entry into mobile payments. By comparison, the three-year-old Google Wallet looked tired and limited.

Now, Apple’s head start has nearly vanished. Today at its I/O conference in San Francisco for software developers, Google introduced Android Pay, a successor to Google Wallet that, when it launches this summer, will come close to matching Apple Pay for making payments via smartphones easy in stores and inside apps.

They won’t quite be identical. Apple Pay’s security system is somewhat different, and Android phones won’t have fingerprint identification like Apple’s until the new version of Android comes out this summer, and even then only on phones that have fingerprint I.D. capability. But they’ll be close enough that consumers should be comfortable using either one in largely the same way–and at the very same 700,000 store locations that have the right checkout terminals.

That’s a big step forward for Google’s mobile payment ambitions. A competitive mobile wallet is key for the search giant because the ability to pay with a couple taps on a smartphone will grease the e-commerce skids for app developers and marketers alike.

If you’re tuning into the mobile payments business recently, you might wonder if Google is simply copying Apple. Actually, it’s more the other way around. …

Read the entire post.

Google Glass May Not Be Dead, But It Sure Needs A Complete Overhaul

Google cofounder Sergey Brin wears Google Glass.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin wears Google Glass.

From my Forbes blog:

Google Glass is dead. Long live Google Glass.

That’s what Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt essentially insisted today in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Actually, he specifically said it was still very much alive following January’s announcement that the Glass Explorer program was ending and Glass work moving from secret lab Google X to Google itself, under Tony Fadell, who heads Google’s Nest connected home division. Schmidt added that Glass will be the basis of “a big and very fundamental platform.”

But given how much it’s likely to be changed, Schmidt might have been better off pronouncing it dead. If new versions of Google Glass are to succeed, they need to change in a whole host of ways that literally will make it unrecognizable compared with the $1,500 version it sold to bleeding-edge people like me. After using it only intermittently for a year now, I think Schmidt is right that Glass could become a compelling product, but only if:

1) Google hides Glass behind actual glasses. No matter how elegant Google made Glass, that little block of plastic that serves as the screen is simply too weird-looking. In its current form, the device screams, “I’m a Glasshole.” Instead, as rumors indicate, Google will have to incorporate that screen into existing eyewear.

Read the rest of what Glass will need to be successful.

How Do You Google? New Eye Tracking Study Reveals Huge Changes

The classic "golden triangle" reader heat map

The classic “golden triangle” reader heat map

From my Forbes blog:

Google used to be criticized for providing little more than “10 blue links” in its search results that sent searchers to other sites. More recently, it’s getting lots of flack from companies and antitrust officials in Europe for the opposite–providing direct answers that make it less likely searchers will click through to the sources from which it drew the information.

Either way, Google is spitting out instant results on billions of our search queries a month in a way that’s radically different from how it used to do it. Not only has Google personalized results based on previous searches and myriad other things it knows about us, but it often presents direct answers to queries in the form of everything from maps, photo carousels and movie time listings to fact boxes from its encyclopedia-like Knowledge Graph and even spoken answers.

Now we have a graphic visual representation of exactly how we’re viewing these results, and the differences from a decade ago are striking. That’s apparent in a new study conducted by the digital marketing firm Mediative, which tracked eye movements of 53 people as they did a wide variety of Google searches on desktop computers and perused the results. The results of the study were presented today at the search marketing conference SMX West in San Jose.

Now, you may already sense instinctively how things have changed, since you probably do a gajillion searches a day. But the upshot for marketers, including the search engine optimization or “SEO” companies that flocked to the conference is both less obvious and more critical: In short, they can’t just try to get into the first few search results and expect that to send business rolling in. (A couple of caveats: The study didn’t look at how people do searches on smartphones, which involves an entirely different set of behaviors, and it was conducted only in North America.)

Basically, the study found that the “golden triangle” identified in a 2005 eye tracking study, which has served as the guidepost for search advertisers ever since, no longer exists. The golden triangle, shown in the heat map from the 2005 study above, showed that people’s attention on search results was focused almost entirely on the upper left side of the page. …

Read the details in the full post.

The Art Of The Nudge: Why Google Wants To Be A Wireless Carrier

From my Forbes blog:

Confirming rumors circulating for some time, Google today said it will indeed launch its own wireless Internet service later this year. But the Internet giant said it plans to do so on a small scale, to prove there’s a better way to combine free WiFi-based phone and data services with cellular networks.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, told an audience at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona that Google will announce more details of its plan to become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO, offering service for smartphones under its own brand. Recent reports said Google will work with T-Mobile and Sprint to provide cellular network coverage in cases when WiFi isn’t available, even to the extent of resuming a call on those networks if it gets dropped.

It’s yet another in a long line of moves by Google to push often recalcitrant industry players along. That includes its Android mobile software (which arguably has become a profit center of sorts if you count some $10 billion in gross app revenues), its Nexus phones and tablets (which surely don’t bring in much if any profit), its fiber broadband service in several cities (probably the closest analog), all the way back to its 2008 bid for radio spectrum (which it lost, perhaps purposely, to get Verizon and others to buy it and eventually expand wireless Internet access).

While Google at times in the past has been more cagey about its intentions when it introduces products and services outside its core, this time it was quite clear about why it’s doing this. It isn’t trying to become a large-scale wireless operator, Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, told attendees:

“We don’t intend to be a network operator at scale. We are working with carrier partners. You’ll see our answer in coming months. Our goal is to drive a set of innovations we think should arrive, but do it a smaller scale, like Nexus devices, so people will see what we’re doing.”

In other words, it’s the latest example of how Google has become a master of the nudge. All of those moves are intended to push software developers, hardware partners, carriers, and competitors to improve their products and services, because the better the hardware, software, and Internet access they provide, the better Google’s advertising business does.

Read the rest of the post.

What’s Next For Google+ Now That Its Leader Has Suddenly Left?

From my Forbes blog:

Google+ has never gotten the respect its creator hoped, let alone gained much ground on its supposed target, Facebook. Now, Google’s attempt at a social network has lost its leader and chief evangelist, Vic Gundotra, who announced today that he’s leaving Google after almost eight years at the company.

Gundotra, a former Microsoft executive, gave no clue to his next steps. His own post, musing on the death of his wife’s uncle and her father’s attitude toward life, implied that he was simply ready for a new challenge after a career at Google that you’d have to consider a success. Google+ failed to make a dent in Facebook, but it’s a solid service with a loyal following and, probably most of all, a powerful source of data for Google’s advertising machine. And Gundotra’s previous work courting developers for Android obviously paid off bigtime, as the mobile software remains the only credible rival to Apple’s iOS.

Still, Gundotra’s departure, effective immediately, is rather abrupt, despite recent rumors that he was interviewing for other jobs. There is speculation that he didn’t get along with CEO Larry Page’s “L Team” of top execs and with some employees who called him the “Victator,” though Page himself provided a quick bit of praise for Gundotra today. Other sources at Google have told me that Gundotra, known for his very public profile and more charm than many Google executives, was resented by some inside Google for self-promotion and a tendency to run over other execs in his drive to get things done.

What matters more going forward is what will happen to Google+, which has suffered most of all from a confusing vision of its core purpose. Gundotra and his lieutenant, Bradley Horowitz (who mysteriously was not chosen as his successor), have taken pains to define Google+ as not a social network, but some sort of social glue for all of Google’s services. But their insistence, coupled with iffy numbers of people supposedly using it, always rang a bit hollow, so Google+ continues to be compared to Facebook. And as a place to share your life with friends as people do on Facebook, it’s clearly a failure. …

Here’s the thing: This could actually be an ideal time for Google to forge a completely new vision of social networking and communications, rather than keep trying to explain what Google+ isn’t. Indeed, at a time when even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is talking up the virtues of private communications, Google+ could position itself as already well on the way to this new world of more nuanced online communications. …

Gundotra’s departure may be a blow to Google’s social ambitions for now. But it also could be an opportunity to start anew. And it’s an opportunity Google can’t afford to waste this time.

Read the rest of the analysis.

Google’s Next Big Battle: A Conversation With Ad Chief Susan Wojcicki

From my Forbes blog:

Straightforward and unflashy, Susan Wojcicki doesn’t come off like the most powerful woman in advertising that Forbes and others have labeled her. When we meet outside her office at the Googleplex in Mountain View, she’s dressed in jeans and a simple maroon top and speaks with an almost self-deprecating lilt.

But as the search giant’s senior vice president of advertising and commerce, she is indeed the exec leading the development of some of the most disruptive ad technologies of the past half-century. I interviewed Wojcicki (pronounced wo-JIT-ski) for my article in the current issue of Forbes on how Google is gunning for brand advertising, the image advertising still dominated by television and the dwindling pages of slick magazines.

After picking up “detox” lemonades at a juice bar, we walked past a T. Rex skeleton sculpture festooned with plastic pink flamingos to a set of tables to talk about how the company aims to wrest away brand advertising budgets, which still constitute the majority of ad spending worldwide thanks to the persistent popularity of television among advertisers. Over the slap of spikes and serves from a nearby volleyball court and the occasional caw of a crow resting in the nearby trees, she explained her vision of Google’s next big step beyond search and plain-vanilla display ads. This is an edited version of our conversation.

Google senior VP Susan Wojcicki

Google senior VP Susan Wojcicki

Q: Lots of brand marketers and agencies say they can get truly large audiences more easily on TV than on YouTube or elsewhere online. Why haven’t online ads been able to provide similar branding opportunities as TV and other traditional media?

A: Most advertising is a portfolio of different types of advertising. TV definitely is effective for lots of advertisers. If we want to talk about the long-term future, the question is: Where is TV going? Will all TVs be Internet-enabled? And if they are Internet-enabled, what does your TV look like then? Is your TV then basically a screen attached to your computer in your living room? There could be all different types of things your TV looks like in the future.

Q: You still hear the argument that TV is a lean-back medium and people in that kind of environment are always going to be more receptive to brand messaging. Are people ever going to be as receptive online?

A: Even in TV advertising, they try to target specific types of users. That’s why they’ll say, “We want users who watch sports,” because that means a certain type of demographic. Users are opting into seeing specific shows on TV, and I think it’s similar with digital. They are choosing specific shows to see.

I’m not really sure that lean-back vs. interactive necessarily means that the user is more or less receptive. It’s counterintuitive that something where you’re engaging, you’re less receptive. If users are engaging with something, they’re choosing to see something. That’s the whole concept of what we’re doing with TrueView [YouTube ads that viewers can skip and that advertisers pay for only if they’re viewed], where users are choosing to see something, so they’re engaging with it. …

Read the rest of the interview.