I’m on the plane home, and I’m punchy. Davos affords you about three to five hours a sleep a night, what with the endless networking events, jet lag, and my general inability to sleep anyway. I may be telling you things you already know, but then again, they bear repeating. This past week, Google and Yahoo did a few things I found interesting.
First, while at Davos, Google’s senior management owned up to screwing up in China (I was at the event where this was discussed). I spoke to a very large customer of Google’s, who shall remain nameless, who knows the fellow who was tapped to run Google’s media business there. That fellow, Johnny Chou, lasted about a year and left in mid December. (Hey, Johnny, if you’d like to talk, you know where I live). Loyal readers will recall my recounting of Google’s tortured decision to enter the China market. Clearly this subject continues to haunt the company.
Second, Google made it possible for publishers to carve out “premium” advertising spots on their sites. Does this matter? Well, not much when it comes to CPC advertising, after all, with CPC it’s all about performance, and publishers will put ads wherever they perform best. But when it come to branding and CPM ads, placement is *everything.* Watch this space, literally. Google is priming its publisher network for a major push into branded, site specific sales. That’s where the big money is, the non direct-response money that is moving from TV and print.
Third, Yahoo announced earnings, which were not very interesting (they met estimates and then lowered expectations. Kinda like a blind date your Mom might have set you up on). But more interestingly, they announced Panama would be ready a full month early (though they emphasized that would have no effect on earnings whatsoever). Still and all, that’s a good sign. Yahoo is well and truly positioned to be the comeback kid this year. That’s not to say it will happen, but…
And lastly, Google released a new algo that helps kill Google Bombs. Sigh, no more miserable failure. Well, it’s not much fun to kick a fellow when he’s down anyway. From Google’s post on the subject:
The next natural question to ask is “Why doesn’t Google just edit these search results by hand?” To answer that, you need to know a little bit about how Google works. When we’re faced with a bad search result or a relevance problem, our first instinct is to look for an automatic way to solve the problem instead of trying to fix a particular search by hand.
Recall, of course, what Google has said previously (NYT) about Google Bombs: Craig Silverstein, Google’s director for technology, says the company sees nothing wrong with the public using its search engine this way. No user is hurt, he said, because there is no clearly legitimate site for “miserable failure” being pushed aside.
Moreover, he said, Google’s results were taking stock of the range of opinions that are expressed online. “We just reflect the opinion on the Web,” he said, “for better or worse.”