Google AdWords System Goes Mobile

Cross-posted from my blog The New Persuaders:

The more than 1 million advertisers using Google’s signature AdWords system now can run ad campaigns on the 300,000 apps running on 350 million mobile devices in its AdMob network.

The move, announced this morning, means that Google advertisers can run mobile campaigns from their AdWords dashboard, running them alone or in conjunction with their Web ads. They can target ads to specific smartphone or tablet models, specific app categories, or even particular apps. “This is the latest chapter in our ongoing efforts not only to bring AdMob’s and Google’s tools together, but to mobilize all of our ads products and services,” Jonathan Alferness, Google’s director of product management for mobile ads, said in a blog post.

It’s also a way for Google’s mainstream, often smallish advertisers to give mobile ads a shot much more easily. That could help close the well-known gap between the increasing amount of time people spend on mobile devices and the relatively small amount of ad revenue they’re generating.

Google bought AdMob in late 2009 for $750 million. Today’s announcement builds on Google’s attempt to integrate its many ad products into a coherent whole. On June 5, it announced a revamped display-ad system that brings together myriad display products for marketers and ad agencies. The same day, Facebook also announced the ability for marketers to buy mobile-only ads.

Read the full post at The New Persuaders.

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Facebook Launches First Mobile-Only Ads–Right in Your News Feed

Image: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Cross-posted from my Forbes blog The New Persuaders:

Facebook took a first step toward addressing one of the shortcomings that led to its disappointing IPO and today’s dismal stock price. Today, it introduced the ability for marketers and agencies to buy only its mobile ads, without having to buy desktop ads as well. Previously, introduced at its fMC event in February, ads could be bought only for both mobile and desktop distribution together.

The ads in question are Sponsored Stories, Facebook’s name for posts from one’s friends that marketers pay to highlight, and they will appear directly in people’s news feeds, not just on the right side of the page where most ads reside. Those ads may prove more effective than standard display ads.

While the move was expected, and mobile ads of this sort have already been running, the new move could prove to be a big deal for marketers and agencies, largely because they can be bought more efficiently through Facebook’s self-service tools rather than through a Facebook sales person.

“It’s mobile ads for the masses,” says Simon Mansell, CEO of Facebook marketing firm TBG Digital. “Any mobile apps where you’re logged into Facebook, you can run Sponsored Stories” related to those apps, he says. The ads also will be especially appealing to local businesses such as restaurants that appeal to people on the go.

James Borow, CEO of social media marketing software firm GraphEffect, says advertisers will now be able to determine the impact of their mobile ads separately from desktop Facebook ads, which they couldn’t do before. As a result, he says, “Overnight, they are going to be the largest mobile ad network in the world.”

Because ads appearing in people’s news feeds, the main way they use Facebook, are new, it’s not yet clear how well they will work. It’s also not clear how well they will be received–as welcome, relevant news or spam. That question may prove especially acute on small smartphone screens where people increasingly are accessing Facebook.

Read the rest of the post at The New Persuaders.

Why Would Anyone Want to Buy a ‘Facebook Phone’?

Visit the original post at my Forbes blog The New Persuaders.

So Facebook wants to make a smartphone. Not just a nice app that it sorely lacks right now, but a piece of hardware that it supposedly will design, with the help of a half-dozen former iPhone and iPad software and hardware engineers it has hired.

As farfetched and even crazy as this may sound to those of us rubes who like to do more than just check in on Facebook with their smartphones, it’s apparently a longstanding obsession of the company. That obsession was recently heightened by an initial public offering that went less than swimmingly partly because investors were worried about the company’s lack of a strategy to make money from users on mobile devices. The idea, it seems, is that Facebook needs a clean mobile slate to fulfill its vision of socially infused advertising, so the only way to do that without interference from Apple, Google, carriers, or simply status-quo thinking by phone makers is to do its own.

But little of this rampant speculation makes much sense on its face. Mainly, the idea that Facebook needs to do this to ensure that it can run ads more easily ignores the fact that users–who ultimately would make a decision whether to buy a new phone–aren’t clamoring for ads from Facebook on their devices. A design that essentially makes the smartphone safe for Facebook ads seems unlikely to appeal to Facebook users. Maybe they won’t mind ads on their phones as much as some people might think, if they’re relevant to the activity at hand, but Facebook would have to offer very much more than that to get people to part with their existing phone.

Here’s the thing: Every smartphone is a Facebook phone. Every phone is a Google phone. The essence of the smartphone, like the computer, is that it’s programmable–you can, and people do, make it their own personal phone. Anything that limits that flexibility, even in the name of making it easier to use the most popular Web service on the planet, will be a nonstarter with the masses.

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What’s Coming in Internet Advertising: 12 Predictions for 2012

I did my annual predictions first on my Forbes blog, The New Persuaders, since they’re focused largely on the Internet media and advertising I cover there. On that blog, they’re done as separate posts, but I wanted to gather them up in one place here, as I’ve done in previous years. So here’s what I think will happen (or in some cases, not happen) this year in my corner of the technology and startup world:

Facebook goes public, but won’t start an IPO landslide: Facebook will make the signature stock offering of the decade, one that reportedly will value the social network at up to $100 billion. But it won’t launch a thousand IPOs as a gazillion venture capitalists and angel investors hope.

Of course, the first part of that prediction is a gimme. But I can’t go without mentioning it because the Facebook IPO will be one of the biggest stories of 2012. Assuming Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley don’t stumble in pricing and selling the offering, Facebook’s IPO will be every bit as important as Google’s in 2004. It will be a sign that Facebook is a real, sustainable company (if there was any doubt left by now), but also a sign that social networking is getting woven into the fabric of our entire online experience.

The second part of the prediction depends less on how the Facebook IPO goes than on how (or whether) the economy recovers. If the recover remains slow to nonexistent and the stock market reflects that, IPOs will be sparse. If we get the slow but growing economic improvement we seem to be seeing now, more companies will go public but not a gusher. But the point is that Facebook is such a singular success that it’s not going to set the tone for lesser (often far lesser) Internet companies.

Facebook’s ad business booms–but not at Google’s expense: Facebook’s social advertising looks promising, but won’t come close to challenging Google’s huge success in search ads this year–maybe ever.

Obviously, Facebook is having no problem raking in the bucks from advertisers eager to reach its 800 million-plus audience–or more specifically, the millions of people in whatever target markets they choose. EMarketer reckons the company will gross nearly $6 billion in ad revenues this year, up from $4 billion in 2011. And that’s before we know anything about Facebook’s likely plans for mobile ads or an ad network a la Google’s AdSense that would spread its ads around the Web.

From reading a lot of articlesyou’d think Facebook is stealing all that money directly from Google. That’s not mainly the case, given Google’s own considerable growth in display advertising, though Facebook’s success may well blunt that growth in the future. Instead, Facebook currently is eating Yahoo’s and AOL’s lunches, and those of many ad networks that, until Facebook ramped up its ad business, were the main alternative for advertisers looking to target sizable audiences.

What would make Facebook a huge Google-scale company is the theft of an entirely different meal: television advertising. After all, Facebook shows much more promise as a brand advertising medium than a direct-marketing medium like Google. It needs only to draw a small fraction of the $60 billion or so spent on television advertising, the biggest brand medium, to be enormously successful. But even then, it’s not mainly a Facebook vs. Google contest.

Facebook still needs to answer a big question, however. That’s whether its “social ads,” which incorporate people’s friends in ads in a 21st century version of word-of-mouth marketing, will have nearly the effectiveness in driving attention and ultimately sales as search ads, which appear in direct response to related queries, often involving products people are looking to buy. The potential is intriguing, and there are some nice examples of how well social advertising can work.

But despite Facebook’s considerable work in providing new kinds of metrics on marketing and advertising impact on its users, marketers and agencies aren’t yet universally convinced they need to spend a lot of money on Facebook ads. After all, they can get a lot of mileage out of their free Facebook Pages and Like buttons around the Web. (Not to mention, it remains to be seen whether these ultra-personal ads will cross what blogger Robert Scoble calls the Facebook freaky line.)

Bottom line: If Facebook is to be the Google of the this decade, its advertising has to at least approach the engagement of search ads, especially as Google itself moves to become more of a brand advertising platform with YouTube and continues its push into display ads. While Facebook is building what seems likely to become a great business on anew vision of advertising that could change many decades of tradition,2012 won’t be the year it closes that deal.

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What’s Coming on the Internet in 2011 (Or Not)

I know I shouldn’t do it–predictions too often are either obvious or wrong–but I can’t help it. If I have to think about what’s coming in 2011, and I do, I might as well inflict those thoughts on the rest of the world. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Anyway, here’s what I expect to see this year:

* There will be at least one monster initial public offering in tech. Take your pick (in more or less descending order of likelihood): SkypeGroupon, ZyngaDemand MediaLinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook (only if it has to). But despite many stories that will call this event a bellwether,  the IPO won’t bring back anything like the bubble days of the late 1990s (and thank goodness for that) because there are still only a few marquee names that can net multibillion-dollar valuations. UPDATE: Well, so much for that descending order. LinkedIn apparently will be the first to file–though whether it will be a “monster” IPO is another question. UPDATE 2: Well, here’s that monster IPO–since it’s hard to believe Facebook won’t go public if it has to disclose financials anyway. But it likely won’t happen until early 2012. Update 3: Now Groupon appears to be leading the IPO derby. Update 4, 1/20/11: Now it looks like Demand Media will be the first out. Again, not sure that’s the monster one, but if it’s successful, more will come.

* App fever will cool. Good apps that encapsulate a useful task or bit of entertainment–Angry Birds, AroundMe, Google Voice–will continue to do well. But those apps that do little more than apply a pretty layer atop Web content won’t get much traction–and moneymaking opportunities are uncertain in any case. The bigger issue: Once HTML5 becomes the widespread standard for creating Web services, enabling much more interactive Web services right from the browser, I wonder whether the need for separate apps will gradually fade. Continue reading

What Happened in 2010–and Didn’t

Somehow I persuaded myself a year ago to offer up predictions for what would happen in 2010–and what wouldn’t happen. Now it’s time to take my medicine and see how I fared.

What I said would happen:

* Merger mania will accelerate in technology, especially acquisitions of smaller firms. OK, so it was a bit of a gimme, but I got that right. Google alone bought more than two dozen.

* Branding will start to become more apparent in Internet advertising, with Google leading the way in display. I guess it became somewhat more prominent a push, but I’d say I was a year too early on this.

* Google’s software efforts will finally establish it as more than a search company, making it apparent what this pony’s second trick is. Android certainly established itself, the Chrome browser made significant gains, and Google Apps got some big new customers. Chrome OS was late, though delivered through an alpha laptop, and remains unproven, and so does Google TV. Overall, it’s an impressive showing, if not enough to identify software as its next trick.

* Yahoo will surprise on the upside, thanks in part to a pickup in brand spending. Wrong! Well, the latter happened, but not enough to buoy a sinking Yahoo. It laid off 4% of its staff and jettisoned once-promising operations. Well, there’s always 2011–and maybe that’s all there will be if CEO Carol Bartz can’t demonstrate that she can finally turn things around.

* Mobile applications will start to take off for the masses. Two words: Angry Birds.

* Twitter’s main business model will become more apparent, but won’t knock everyone’s socks off. That’s just about right.

* Facebook will keep growing, providing perhaps the first test of whether social media is a blockbuster business after all. No doubt about that, even if it’s not yet certain how profitable the company will be.

What I said wouldn’t happen:

* Tablets won’t be the next big thing in client computing. As popular as Apple’s iPad was, tablets didn’t take the world by storm in 2010. But I don’t doubt they’ll be much bigger in 2011.

* There won’t be as many tech IPOs as venture capitalists and startups are hoping. And no, there weren’t, even if 45 did go public, up from 16 in 2009. And none of them were the big names such as Twitter or Facebook that some had hoped for.

* Real-time won’t be a business. When’s the last time you heard that buzzword? Maybe when real-time search engine OneRiot did a layoff?

* Online advertisers won’t escape a privacy backlash. And they sure didn’t. More trouble is coming in 2011, too.

* Google won’t get hit with a major antitrust lawsuit that so many have been predicting for years. True, and it doesn’t look any more likely today.

So actually, I did pretty well, even if you could argue that some of those weren’t exactly stretches. Next up, predictions for 2011, and another opportunity to look like an idiot.

The Long-Awaited Boxee Box Gets a Hollywood Preview

Few consumer electronics devices have been more widely anticipated, at least by the more geeky set, than Boxee‘s settop box for bringing Internet content to the TV–since Google TV debuted three weeks ago, anyway. The uniquely shaped Boxee Box will debut on Nov. 10 in New York, adding a potent new player to the rapidly expanding market for Internet-connected TVs and add-on devices.

Today, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen offered a preview at the Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles, where such devices are viewed with much more wariness and even fear than in Silicon Valley. First, he offered his version of the landscape (paraphrased at times):

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Google and Verizon Hold Net Neutrality Lovefest — With a Couple of (Big) Catches

For days, Google and Verizon have been taking it on the chin for allegedly forging an online content distribution deal that might topple the hallowed notion of Net neutrality, the idea that no content or content provider should be able to pay for priority delivery on the Internet. Google flatly said the New York Times story was wrong, and so did Verizon, though the Times stood by it.  This morning, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg are holding a press call presumably to clear the air. Google said in emails to reporters:

A preview of their announcement will be posted on both the Google and Verizon public policy blogs at 1:25pm Eastern. You  may find the statement of principles and our joint filing to the FCC earlier this year helpful.

I’ll blog the highlights as they happen. The call’s a bit delayed as of 10:35 a.m. Pacific, as are the blog posts.

And now Schmidt kicks off the call.

Schmidt: We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking. To my very pleasant surprise, over the last several years we’ve found more and more we agree on (with Verizon).

Basic goal is to put aside the very divisive debate. This is the next step in making this debate more profound and clear.

An open Internet allows the next Google to be created. Openness leads to more innovation, more (services) for consumers.

Almost all of the criticism is wrong.

And now the blog post is up. The essential takeaways seem to be 1) that net neutrality should be the law of the land for wired networks, meaning that there shouldn’t be paid priority for content on the open Internet, but paid-priority services on top of the open Internet should be allowed (yes, this is confusing for many people on the call, and no doubt will not satisfy some Net neutrality advocates). But 2) for the most part these principles shouldn’t apply to mobile, because it’s early and there’s somewhat more competition (this also will not please Net neutrality purists). Here’s the full blog post from Google:

A joint policy proposal for an open Internet

Posted by Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications

The original architects of the Internet got the big things right. By making the network open, they enabled the greatest exchange of ideas in history. By making the Internet scalable, they enabled explosive innovation in the infrastructure.

It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of “network neutrality.”

In October, our two companies issued a shared statement of principles on network neutrality. A few months later we submitted a joint filing to the FCC, and in an April joint op-ed our CEOs discussed their common interest in an open Internet. Since that time, we have listened to all sides of the debate, engaged in good faith with policy makers in multiple venues, and challenged each other to craft a balanced policy framework. We have been guided by the two main goals:

1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.

2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.

Today our CEOs will announce a proposal that we hope will make a constructive contribution to the dialogue. Our joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, and is laid out here. Below we discuss the seven key elements:

First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose. The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.

Second, we agree that in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.

Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic – including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.

Third, it’s important that the consumer be fully informed about their Internet experiences. Our proposal would create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers.

Fourth, because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors.

Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon’s FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options. Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.

Sixth, we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.

Seventh, and finally, we strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available.

We believe this policy framework properly empowers consumers and gives the FCC a role carefully tailored for the new world of broadband, while also allowing broadband providers the flexibility to manage their networks and provide new types of online services.

Ultimately, we think this proposal provides the certainty that allows both web startups to bring their novel ideas to users, and broadband providers to invest in their networks.

Crafting a compromise proposal has not been an easy process, and we have certainly had our differences along the way. But what has kept us moving forward is our mutual interest in a healthy and growing Internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation. As policy makers continue to formulate the rules of the road, we hope that other stakeholders will join with us in providing constructive ideas for an open Internet policy that puts consumers in charge and enhances America’s leadership in the broadband world. We stand ready to work with the Congress, the FCC and all interested parties to do just that.

On to questions. First one basically asks if Google will get any priority on its content or traffic from Verizon. Seidenberg says absolutely not. Schmidt also says it has no plans to create some kind of special channels on Verizon’s Internet services.

Seidenberg says there will be no paid prioritization. We could not degrade anything related to the public Internet. But he says there could be additional (private?) services for which content delivery (presumably mostly video and voice) could be offered. But those services wouldn’t harm any content delivery on the open Internet.

Schmidt says not only does Verizon promise not to degrade any content delivery but it has no incentive to do so. “We will make sure they enforce those principles.” Schmidt says in response to another question that YouTube and other services will remain on the public Internet. So I’m not clear what other Verizon content delivery services would be.

Q: Is there any business arrangement between Google and Verizon? Schmidt: No, he says in no uncertain terms. Seidenberg says it’s a suggestion for public policy, nothing more.

Q: Something on the network management issue, meaning to what extent can or will Verizon do anything that allows it to prioritize some traffic over other traffic. Seidenberg: Need some flexibility, like prioritizing voice traffic during emergencies, but nothing else. We don’t do it now, so I don’t see why we’d ever start doing it.

Q: So what is this alternative system to the open Internet, asks Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land? Schmidt: We have no intention of doing anything other than the Internet. Seidenberg: I never said an alternative. But other services could be built that ride the open Internet. Like Verizon’s FIOS television service now.

Q: What kind of entertainment service might go over a new service riding on the Internet? Seidenberg: Let’s assume Metropolitan Opera wants to broadcast every one of its performances. They probably don’t want to do that over the open Internet.

Last Q from Erick Schonfeld of Techcrunch: It’s hard for us to imagine future services that aren’t on the Internet. (Clearly this is confusing to many people on the call, understandably so. I’m not yet sure how you can hold out the possibility of services that would appear to be apart from the open Internet while insisting that everything will remain on the open Internet. On the other hand, it’s not a stretch to think that there are certain bandwidth-hogging services that the content providers themselves would want to have a more guaranteed level of service for–like Met operas.)

Seidenberg: You think 3D is something that goes over the Internet?

More to come as people more knowledgeable about network operation weigh in. One of them, Cecelia Kang of the Washington Post, thinks Net neutrality advocates won’t like it. Dan Gillmor is skeptical too. Meantime, watch the opinions splatter on Techmeme. Update: A nice analysis by Wired’s Eliot van Buskirk explains that this indeed would mean essentially a second, paid-access Internet–a necessary carrot to get Internet service providers like Verizon to go along with Net neutrality. Karl Bode at rakes the proposal over the coals.

Activists aren’t happy. Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn says the agreement “does almost nothing to preserve and open Internet.” Free Press political adviser Joel Kelsey says there are “giant loopholes,” not least in wireless networks.

Questions About the Google-AdMob Deal–and How the FTC Answered Them

Today the Federal Trade Commission decided not to oppose Google’s proposed purchase of leading mobile ad firm AdMob, clearing the way for the $750 million deal to be closed. Given recent hints that the FTC’s staff might recommend the commission block the deal, the decision was something of a surprise. But as the FTC itself explained, “although the combination of the two leading mobile advertising networks raised serious antitrust issues,” there is in fact ample competition in what is after all still a nascent market.

The investigation raised several questions about not only the mobile ad market but the FTC’s stance on such deals in the Obama era. Here are some of those questions, and the apparent answers:

* Would the deal allow Google to dominate the mobile ad market?

Not at this time, the FTC said, but noted that that was a danger:

Google’s proposed $750 million acquisition of AdMob necessitated close scrutiny because the transaction appeared likely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. Those companies generate the most revenue among mobile advertising networks, and both companies are particularly strong in one segment of the market, namely performance ad networks. The Commission’s six-month investigation yielded evidence that each of the merging parties viewed the other as its primary competitor, and that each firm made business decisions in direct response to this perceived competitive threat.

* Are mobile ads a separate market from other online ads?

I’m not sure why mobile ads, which after all are simply ads that happen to appear on mobile device screens, are really a market separate from other online ads. Marketers, after all, usually view them as potential additions or substitutes to display ads or even search ads, and they can in fact be either of those. And if they view them as separate markets now, it’s likely they won’t stay that way as ad technology firms increasingly offer them as a package to marketers. But it’s clear from the FTC press release that FTC considers the mobile ad market distinct–and furthermore that it doesn’t matter how new it is:

The Commission stressed that mergers in fast-growing new markets like mobile advertising should get the same level of antitrust scrutiny as those in other markets. The statement goes on to note that, “Though we have determined not to take action today, the Commission will continue to monitor the mobile marketplace to ensure a competitive environment and to protect the interests of consumers.”

Mobile ad networks, such as those provided by Google and AdMob, sell advertising space for mobile publishers, who create applications and content for websites configured for mobile devices, primarily Apple’s iPhone and devices that run Google’s Android operating system. By “monetizing” mobile publishers’ content through the sale of advertising space, mobile ad networks play a vital role in fueling the rapid expansion of mobile applications and Internet content.

* Did Apple help Google clear the deal?

Um, clearly. According to the commission’s statement:

The agency’s concerns [about the Google-AdMob deal] ultimately were overshadowed by recent developments in the market, most notably a move by Apple Computer Inc. – the maker of the iPhone – to launch its own, competing mobile ad network. … As a result of Apple’s entry (into the market), AdMob’s success to date on the iPhone platform is unlikely to be an accurate predictor of AdMob’s competitive significance going forward, whether AdMob is owned by Google or not.

* Should Apple be afraid of the FTC?

Very afraid. Or at least it should expect intense scrutiny, if the rather detailed description of Apple’s role in this market is any indication:

These concerns, however, were outweighed by recent evidence that Apple is poised to become a strong competitor in the mobile advertising market, the FTC’s statement says. Apple recently acquired Quattro Wireless and used it to launch its own iAd service. In addition, Apple can leverage its close relationships with application developers and users, its access to a large amount of proprietary user data, and its ownership of iPhone software development tools and control over the iPhone developers’ license agreement.

* Is Google off the regulatory hook now?

Not by a long shot. As the commission said:

Though we have determined not to take action today, the Commission will continue to monitor the mobile marketplace to ensure a competitive environment and to protect the interests of consumers.

Indeed, few experts believe that this decision will have much if any impact on other regulatory concerns about Google’s strength in search ads, its moves into other areas such as display ads, or the privacy implications of its vast data collection.

Why Google TV? Advertising $$$

Eventually, when the cool glow of Google’s announcement of Google TV this morning dies down a bit, someone will ask the obvious question, one that dogs almost every new product or service the search giant releases: Why is Google doing TV software? Sure, Google makes a valid point that search can become a new way to find content on TV, especially since the lines between the vast Web and TV content are blurring in this new age of Internet-connected TVs. That makes today’s onscreen TV guides, where you have to scroll through lists of channels and shows, hopelessly cumbersome. So yes, there’s at least an overt reason for Google to try to bring its search expertise to bear.

Still, I think the real opportunity for Google is to add television as a platform for advertising. It’s no secret that the company has tried to move beyond the Web, but its efforts in radio and print advertising went nowhere. Google’s TV advertising push also hasn’t taken off, but the potential has remained the most promising because as Web-to-TV devices such as Tivo, Boxee, Roku, and many others start to catch on and settop boxes allow for collection of data about people’s viewing habits and even their Web activities, television is a natural extension for Google.

Amid all the cool features and geeky API stuff, it was telling that Google saw fit to mention not only television’s huge audience of 4 billion people worldwide,  but also the TV advertising market of $70 billion in the U.S. alone. That’s why Google TV is likely much more than one of Google’s many Why-Not-Try-It? products (and certainly more than a hobby). Indeed, it’s also telling that CEO Eric Schmidt dragged such consumer electronics and tech luminaries as Sony CEO Howard Stringer, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, and Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn onstage at the Google I/O developer conference where Google TV was announced. Not least, Schmidt later told Fox Business Network: “Our advertising is targeted,” so “we can do even more relevant television advertising, which should be worth a lot of money.”

It will be interesting to see if people accept ads of any kind as readily as they do current TV ads. I presume ads that appear next to Google TV search results, unlike conventional TV ads, won’t be skippable, so they could prove more intrusive. It seems pretty certain that new forms will have to emerge. But Google provided no examples beyond mentioning that Google TV would open up the possibility of interactive ads.

At the same time, the combination of Web and TV on the TV itself may open up new advertising possibilities for Google on the Web–in particular, on YouTube. By virtue of being viewed mostly on PCs and mobile phones, which are more interactive devices that people use to do something rather than simply watch stuff, YouTube hasn’t been able to leverage the vast base of TV ads; they feel too intrusive. But with a new personalized channel called YouTube Leanback–leanback a term often used to describe the TV viewing experience–watching YouTube may become more of a TV-like experience, one where traditional TV ads may seem more natural, or at least no more annoying than on regular television.

It’s tough to tell how advertising will evolve in this about-to-converge world. And given marketers’ conservatism in trying out new things, ads that fit this new hybrid Web-TV format will take awhile to develop. But it seems likely that Google TV opens up a new world of advertising opportunities for a company long described as a one-trick pony.


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