free html hit counter Thoughts on Picasa and Google's Marketing Strategy - John Battelle's Search Blog

Thoughts on Picasa and Google's Marketing Strategy

By - January 18, 2005

PicasaadLast week I had a chance to speak with Lars Perkins, once CEO of Picasa and now GM of Google’s Picasa unit. He was brimming with the news of his new product’s features, so let’s do a quick overview of what’s new, and then I’ll add a few thoughts as to what all this means. At least, what it seems to mean from where I stand.

First, Picasa is a major upgrade, the first since its release. It adds features in four areas:

– Editing. Version 2 has more and deeper editing features, including new filters, new lighting effects and masks, new color correction, etc.

- Backup. Picasa now lets you back up to CD or DVD, and create “gift CDs” for family and friends.

- Organization. You can now tag pictures with metadata and organize them in new ways.

- Integration with other sites. Picasa announced a deal that allows you to get prints of your Picasa photos through four major photo sites: Ofoto, Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Walmart.

Ok, for more on the features, there’s always PCWorld. What I’m interested in is the more joints after midnight stuff, what does Picasa *mean*, man?

It was odd – almost weird – to be having the discussion I did with Lars. It felt like I was back at MacWeek in the late 1980s and there I was, talking to a product manager at – well, a company like Microsoft about his new product – just one of scores the company was working on at given time. The whole thing struck me as very…traditional. Google was introducing a new software application, touting its new features…Wow, i thought to myself, this is how things are going to be with Google, going forward. Just one more product, one more set of features, one more cog in the machine. I don’t know why that struck such a dissonant note, but it seems to me it’s apt – the company is getting big, and every product can’t have the entire impact of the Google brand, so to speak.

But every product does carry that brand’s influence and potential. And to that end Picasa has many implications. First, let’s consider the business model. I asked Lars what it was, and he admitted “We don’t have one.” Since Google bought Picasa, the software is now free – it used to cost around $30 to download.

“That’s kind of took some getting used to,” Perkins added. “I had to unlearn some of my entrepreneurial instincts…For now, the focus is entirely on creating the best user experience. Like most things Google has done, we’ll figure out the business model down the road.”

OK, I can swing with that, but … really. What about selling prints and calendars, like Ofoto does? “I don’t think you’ll see Google offering end user products like printing or mugs,” Perkins replied.

Well, then, what about getting a piece of the referral action? If you are sending Picasa members to Walmart or Ofoto for printing services, don’t you at least get a piece of that action? “No.”

Huh. Why not? “We are interested in working with all partners, and when you try to cut these business development deals, there are always exceptions they want….”

It seems to me that if you’re Google, you can set the terms of a deal: make it the same for everyone, for example. But regardless of the “we’ll figure it out later” approach to business, which I at once admire and find rather disingenuous (will Google really send its Picasa customers to YahooPhoto?), there are any number of reasons why Picasa makes sense for Google.

1. Photos are data, and Google loves data. The more, the better. Sure, it’s not in the *web* index, but that can come later, as the definition of the PersonalWeb and the PublicWeb start to overlap.

2. Photos are personal, and photos are shared – both trends that allow for search to be better and more important to individuals and groups. This also binds a user to Google, over any other service.

3. Having a photo service will help a search company understand trends in non-textual search, and messy taxonomies of grassroots-driven tagging in particular.

4. And Picasa can be a business, in particular a referral-driven business. Once Google establishes Picasa as an application with its own momentum, I expect the company will reconsider its business model neutrality and start to charge commerce-related fees, much as it most likely will with Google Print.

As I think about Picasa, Google Desktop, Print, Keyhole, Blogger, and Google Groups come to mind, as does Google’s long held aversion to consumer marketing. And I’ve come to the conclusion that Google can no longer afford to avoid consumer marketing. In order for these services to really scale, to get to where they need to go, Google will have to start promoting them. It’s unavoidable – even if you do have the best product in the world, you need to tell people about it before they get locked into other options – Yahoo, for example, promotes Travel, Photo, and other services it owns. That’s what marketing is, after all. Sure, you probably don’t need to market Google search, nor do you need to market in traditional ways. But you sure do need to promote Picasa if you want it to be anything more than a footnote in its space. So I revise what I’ve said in the past about Google hiring an agency. I don’t think they’ll do it to launch a big “We’re Google and we rock” TV campaign, but it makes a whole lotta sense that they might hire an agency to promote the growing number of services and applications the company owns or will own in the future. I don’t know how many GDS downloads there have been, but given how many competitors there are in the desktop search space, I can only guess the number isn’t as high as Google would like, for example. I would not be surprised to see a campaign sometime later this year that reminds consumers that Google has more to offer than just a wicked fast search engine.

Oh, and I did ask Lars if we’d see a Mac version of Picasa, and he asked me if I had used iPhoto. Yup. Enough said.

PS – The Picasa site is very slow today – I imagine it’s getting hammered.

PPS – Danny has a nice piece comparing Picasa to Adobe, and check out this post on an idealized photo site from Thomas Hawk.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

19 thoughts on “Thoughts on Picasa and Google's Marketing Strategy

  1. Googlehater says:

    Picasa is a piece of poo. “We’ll figure out the business model later” is so typical of Google at this point. By the time they figure it out, they are going to have realized the exist in the actual world and are competing with companies that don’t just float on their right-place/right-time luck.

    (And Picasa will teach Google nothing at all about messy folksonomy nothing, unless it is spyware – they don’t say a thing about sending data back to the mothership from the local installs.)

  2. Cole says:

    If I could right click and use the Flickr uploader in Picasa, my life would be 10000x times easier. Of course, I’m one of those “I have 1.2 million digital photos and have never printed any of them” people.

    Good insider scoop post.

  3. Fred says:

    What is the fuss about Picasa? As far as I can see, its just a nicely engineered image-management application. So what? They’ve been around for years, and I suspect that if you hunt around the net you could find a superior product.

    So google are a dominant, and interesting influence on ‘net culture and the way it involves…..yes, and? Is Picasa worth getting excited about? I can’t see it.

  4. Fred says:

    involves = Evolves

  5. Alison Rider says:

    I am trying to find a phone number to speak to someone at Picasa. My account has disappeared, and my hard drive crashed, so I have lost all my photos for the past seven years. I had uploaded them all to Picasa, but it says I have no account. I tried the e-mail contact, but Google kept returning my message saying I needed to use the Picasa contact site, which I was doing. HELP!!!

  6. Castro Does Not Have Cancer, Spanish Surgeon Says..

  7. Scott says:

    I just received Picasa2 from Google Updater. I was a little anxious it might be spyware or useless junk. I was happy to discover it has a lot of nice features that I use all the time in photo scanning, cropping, doctoring and printing. I like the connection it makes with Walmart.com to print photos (I use them) and the GUI is smooth and clean. I hope they do not feel it was a mistake in the future to offer it for free.

  8. LENNYNTERI says:

    MY PICASSO PROGRAM WAS INADVERTANTLY REMOVED FROM MY COMPUTER. I’M REALLY PANICKED, SINCE I HAVE A BOUT 2000 PHOTOS ON IT. HOW CAN MY ACCOUNT BE RESTORED. THIS JUST HAPPENENED 15 MINUTES AGO. 7/28/2007
    CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME.

  9. LENNYNTERI says:

    MY PICASSO PROGRAM WAS INADVERTANTLY REMOVED FROM MY COMPUTER. I’M REALLY PANICKED, SINCE I HAVE A BOUT 2000 PHOTOS ON IT. HOW CAN MY ACCOUNT BE RESTORED. THIS JUST HAPPENENED 15 MINUTES AGO. 7/28/2007
    CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME.

  10. LENNYNTERI says:

    MY PICASSO PROGRAM WAS INADVERTANTLY REMOVED FROM MY COMPUTER. I’M REALLY PANICKED, SINCE I HAVE A BOUT 2000 PHOTOS ON IT. HOW CAN MY ACCOUNT BE RESTORED. THIS JUST HAPPENENED 15 MINUTES AGO. 7/28/2007
    CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME.

  11. LENNYNTERI says:

    MY PICASSO PROGRAM WAS INADVERTANTLY REMOVED FROM MY COMPUTER. I’M REALLY PANICKED, SINCE I HAVE A BOUT 2000 PHOTOS ON IT. HOW CAN MY ACCOUNT BE RESTORED. THIS JUST HAPPENENED 15 MINUTES AGO. 7/28/2007
    CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME.

  12. I have followed the seven steps given by Picasa
    to unblock the photos I want to send by email.
    however, after step #7 (OK button) I’m then confronted with computer jargon I don’t understand. (I’m 86 years old so help on getting unblocked would be greatly appreciated)

  13. Mims Shepas says:

    I need a contack number for Picassa, my pictures are in there and I now have a window’s vista program, hate it , but picassa will not work with my e mail if I want to send a attachment from there to someone. I need to get the pictures out of picassa to a web base e mail , can you help me , if so thank you , why cant there be a phone line to call for help , this is not fair and is the pitts.

  14. Mims Shepas says:

    I need a contack number for Picassa, my pictures are in there and I now have a window’s vista program, hate it , but picassa will not work with my e mail if I want to send a attachment from there to someone. I need to get the pictures out of picassa to a web base e mail , can you help me , if so thank you , why cant there be a phone line to call for help , this is not fair and is the pitts.

  15. chuck says:

    Does anybody have a phone number to get Picasa tech support?

  16. Fred says:

    A large number of photos have disappeared from my Picasa account. Please contact me to let me know what may have happened & if there is anything I can do.

  17. Ron Deem says:

    I need a phone number for Picasa tech support. I keep getting a message that says I need a connection to the internet to utilize the “Email” function. I am connected to the internet using a high speed connection. But Picasa does not recognize it. Anyone have the Phone # or an answer?

  18. Maria Lagios says:

    I am also struggling with PICASA. I cannot create new folders without a shortcut of those folders appearing on my desktop. When I attempt to remove the shortcut everything goes into the recycling bin. Also I cannot send albums to friends. They receive the album with cover photo but they cannot open the album and view the enclosed photos. Yes, a telephone help line would be very helpful. Help from anyone on these matters would be greatly appreciated.

  19. Wayne Shields says:

    I have used and liked picasa for about 2 years. Now with version 3 the program does what it does when you 1st install it, that is it scans your hard drives for all the pics it can find, OK so great EXCEPT that it now does that EVERY TIME I START the program, so I have to wait 15 minutes or so to use the program while it is scanning. I’ve tried to find help on this and can’t find any. Now I have just deleted the program as I have no tolerance for this kind of shit.
    signed: a permenently EX-user of picasa.