Recent rumblings out of Redmond have stated that Microsoft, post the Yahoo axel wrap, will pursue and independent path on the Web. No freakin’ way, is my first thought. That might be refined once I spend some time with their senior management later this month, but if the company is going to go it alone, it means going back on Steve Ballmer’s promise of 25% of Microsoft revenue as advertising. And I really don’t think the company plans to throttle back on its plans to own a major share of the web media world.
Hence the rumors that Microsoft is talking to Facebook again, this time for the whole enchilada.
What I find interesting is the thesis, because all good corporate development must be informed by a decent thesis. The thesis here is simple at a meta level, but near impossible at an operational one: If you have a ton of engaged inventory (ie, people using the web in ways that they value), then you can and should figure out a way to provide marketers access to those people for a premium price that will make network TV look like a blip in the history of marketing.
Google has engaged people. REALLY engaged. For about .2 seconds, you can’t get a more engaged person. But brands are not built in .2 seconds. As I’ve said too many times to count, Google is the greatest harvester of brand equity built elsewhere in the history of media. And kudos to the company for figuring out a way to do it.
Now, the hard part comes. How to build brand equity, awareness, preference, and the like, on the web? It’s one of the largest questions facing the web economy. And while the thesis that Microsoft is pursuing is sound, the proof, well, that’s quite a bowl of messy pudding at the moment. Buying Facebook, or Yahoo, or any other major nexis of engaged consumers is only step one.