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Slight Setback In Seas Simmered

By - February 13, 2009

I’ve given Google a bit of grief for boiling too many oceans, today comes news that another of their many bodies of water will be allowed to cool:

(Bloomberg) Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular search engine, announced plans to shut its three- year-old radio-advertising business and cut as many as 40 jobs, saying the investment didn’t provide enough of a payoff.

The company, which expanded into the market with the 2006 purchase of DMarc Broadcasting Inc., is seeking a buyer for software that arranges ads on radio programs. Google will stop selling radio ads by May 31 and focus instead on online streaming audio, according to a blog posting today.

Google blog post here. The blog, which I’ve monitored for sometime, is called “Let’s Take It Offline” and covers Google’s efforts in boiling the ad market ocean in Print, Radio, and TV. Google cancelled its Print program already, and now with radio “offline,” the title is starting to read with a bit of irony.

However, I do think what Google was trying to do has merit. I was a big defender of the Print efforts, but the program was not supposed to be a savior, rather it was (potentially) a way to cut operating costs and increase sold pages. Radio, I don’t know the market well enough to have an opinion, but I do know the folks who sold Google its radio play (dMarc), are none too pleased with how Google managed it. Navigating the waters of “old media” is not an algorithmic chess game. That much I do know.

TV, I predict, will stick around, because of all traditional media, TV is poised to more fluidly adapt its model to the web. Plus, Google owns YouTube. I think it’s time for a name change on the blog, GOOG. TV ain’t really offline, and in a few years, it’ll be as online as any other electronic medium.

Update: Wow, as I wrote this, the radio icon literally disappeared from the logo on Google’s blog. That was fast!!!

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One thought on “Slight Setback In Seas Simmered

  1. JG says:

    but I do know the folks who sold Google its radio play (dMarc), are none too pleased with how Google managed it. Navigating the waters of “old media” is not an algorithmic chess game. That much I do know.

    Google, from the very beginning, has had one reigning public statement about their approach to advertising. I quote: “Google firmly believes that ads can provide useful information if, and only if, they are relevant to what you wish to find.

    That statement has always been incredibly interesting to me, and I loved Google in the early days because of it. But it was never clear how ads can be relevant to a user’s information need, if those ads are coming to the user through undifferentiatable mass media such as Print and Radio.

    In fact, look at what Google writes (on their same “ten things” corporate mission statement) about relevance and user interests:

    Google’s maximization group works with advertisers to improve clickthrough rates over the life of a campaign, because high clickthrough rates are an indication that ads are relevant to a user’s interests.

    What always struck me about both Print and Radio, from the very beginning, is that this measurability doesn’t exist the same way it does online. In my opinion, it’s not just about the fact that old media is not an “algorithmic chess game”, as Battelle writes. It’s that their is no way to really relevance-target your audience. The same ads are going to tens of thousands of people, indiscriminately, and you have no click-back way of telling if those ads are really relevant or not.

    It makes me wonder what Google was thinking, to even get into both of these businesses in the first place. Not because they couldn’t have made money.. it’s feasible that they could have. No, it makes me wonder because the whole setup so obviously conflicts with Google’s core values.

    I have lost a lot of trust in Google over the years as I watch these initiatives. I know that I am making a bit of a slippery slope fallacy, but I truly have found myself wondering: If Google so easily compromises on this “only relevant ads” core value, what core value will be next to fall? The “focus on the user” policy? The user privacy policy? The “it’s best to do one thing really, really well” policy?

    Oh, wait, they’ve compromised on that “one thing really, really well” tenet, now, too. That’s the boiling too many oceans problem that Battelle points out.