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PostHeaderIcon Will HTML5 Replace Native Apps Any Time Soon?

I’m back.

It has been well on nine months since I last posted, and I am nothing short of disgusted with myself – a guy who promotes blogging regularly, even if it is just a short post. In a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do,” I got so lost in a major project – unexpectedly so, may I add – that time for blogging disappeared faster than newly released iPads do from store shelves.

The project took me back to my online product development roots, and allowed me to build an incredible analytics system for mobile devices. I figured I knew how to build algorithms and real-time search engines, so it might be good for me to know how to build the analytics system that measures the results and feed them back into the behavior of the engine.

I am now officially hooked on mobile as part of the repertoire. Mobile today reminds me of the web in 1996 – 1998 – it is the wild west of technology markets. The rise of smartphones and tablets has changed the entire dynamic of how people interact with information. Everyone is experimenting, and their are thousands of small firms making bets on various approaches to mobile. Evolution is fast and furious, with winners and losers coming and going almost overnight as market changes and technology enhancements literally create disruptive change in the ecosystem.

One ongoing technology argument is HTML5 versus native apps and whether HTML5′s advantages of cross-platform compatibility, channel freedom (not being dependent on the app stores), enhanced discoverability due to better search engines, large base of developers, better analytics tools, and substantially lower cost of development will cause it to overtake native app development as the platform of choice for next-generation mobile apps.

I was at the AppNation conference last week and Trip Hawkins – someone who knows about as much about mobile gaming as anyone – weighed in.

“The browser will beat the app store,” he argued. “It’s more convenient, it’s driven by search and it’s more viral for consumers. It doesn’t matter what device your friend has… All technologies start as silos, but get 100 times bigger when they become inter-operable; think about roads or text messaging.”

I agree with him completely – ubiquity trumps functionality every time, and ultimately the ubiquitous platform surpasses the proprietary platform because more people invest in evolving it to do what they need it to do. Think open source and the “community of the commons” which helped evolve platforms like Java, Linux, Twitter, and Facebook. Or even more fundamentally and applicable to the HTML5 discussion, think the original Apple versus Microsoft Windows. Windows ultimately dominated – and still dominates – Apple as a platform because Microsoft early on allowed its OS to be licensed to any hw manufacturer, extending the franchise and opening the market to an overwhelming level of app development investment that to this day dwarfs what Apple can offer.

This is the economic law that Brian Arthur has described and quantified in his evolving work on Complexity Economics and something we all understand intuitively nowadays. That is, the value of the network (think technology network) increases as it becomes more ubiquitous, thus drawing more investment into it which only further increases its value. It is a virtuous cycle, and one reason becoming the market share leader in a new technology is so critical.

Apple has learned a few things over the years, and with the iPhone and iPad they have quickly moved to gain dominant share and the largest developer community. They are evolving their tools for developers and their OS faster in order to keep their developer community growing and provide more opportunities for developers to make money on the platform. It gives Apple a tremendous lead and advantage at this point against any open platform alternative.

But developing native apps is, relative to HTML5, time consuming and expensive. Unless you are in an industry like gaming where the quality of immersive graphics and performance is critical, HTML5 offers a cost and time to market advantage that provides a lower barrier to entry into the mobile market.

Then there is also an arrogance to Apple that is driving developers to consider ways to bypass the platform. Consider:

  • The iTunes store is a bottleneck. It is a single place to sell, and it gives Apple tremendous power over who succeeds and who does not. And Apple has been more than willing to display its dominance to developers and the community at large.
  • There is a relatively and unpredictably long approval process to get an app live, and often apps are rejected for issues that were not apparent in advance.
  • Apple changes the rules continuously and in many people’s minds, arbitrarily. Take the recent paid download spat with Tapjoy and others. In a single dictum, Apple basically removed a major monetization mechanism for developers.
  • You cannot tell when a push notification actually goes out through Apple. So you pay someone like Urban Airship to send the token to Apple, but then about 1/3 of the time the pushes never arrive. Apple is a “black box” on this and won’t tell you why (although they say they are working to fix this). Now if that isn’t arrogance, I don’t know what is.
  • Apple keeps track of everything developers’ users do on their platform, but do not make the data easily accessible to allow developers to improve their products and optimize their revenues.

All of this give Google and Windows 7 a potential opening to exploit HTML5′s advantages, and they will. Google is already doing so, although they are to a certain extent hedging their bets right now. And Facebook pushing HTML5 apps gives the platform momentum. Eric Schmidt was at Sun with me when Java came to market, and knows first-hand how to leverage an open platform to disrupt an entrenched proprietary competitor. Voila Android. And very soon, Android devices will have a larger installed base than iOS, if it doesn’t already.

The weakness Android has in the app market is fragmentation. In my limited experience looking at the data, there have got to be at least 30 variations of Android out there. When you look at the ROI for developing on Android, it only pays to develop for one or two versions – and this sentiment has been documented extensively in magazines like Fortune .

But that argues strongly for using HTML5 as a development platform. It allows developers to undercut Apple’s power position in the industry and develop for all Android phones.

HTML5 thus provides the opportunity to develop faster, cheaper, with a wider audience to sell to. And Apple is more than providing the motivation, just like Microsoft did for Java. As a rule, developers are a libertarian bunch who hate being dictated to by anyone, and they are getting increasingly upset with Apple.

The only question is how fast this transition will occur, and that remains to be seen. I think ABI Research is right when they say that native app development will peak in 2013 – that just feels right to me given my experience with numerous technology adoption cycles. But any prediction like that is fraught with peril. On the one hand, some killer mobile app built on HTML5 can come along tomorrow and change user behavior to the point where the browser becomes a natural first point of entry into a mobile device. On the other, Apple could change its modus operandi and salve the wounds of upset developers.

So while it is a matter of time, developers for now will have to make a bet on when HTML5′s time will come.

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PostHeaderIcon Notes from First Day of SMX Advanced 2010

Back from SMX Advanced London, where I got a chance to speak on “SEO, Search, and Reputation Management and SMX Advanced 2010 in Seattle, where I got to relax and just take in the knowledge.

So here for all who could not attend, is a summary of three of the sessions I attended on the first day of SMX Advanced 2010.  I only get so much time to blog…working guy you know.  I’ll do my best to post the rest, but no promises.

SEO for Google versus Bing

Janet Miller, Searchmojo

  • From heatmap studies, it appears people “see” Bing and Google SERPs in pretty much the same way.  The “hotspots” are pretty similar.
  • Not surprising: average pages/visit and time on site are higher for Bing than Google – but that has always been true from my perspective
  • Bing does not currently accept video or news sitemaps.
  • On Google you can edit sitelinks in Webmaster tools, in Bing you cannot.
  • Geolocation results show pretty much the same in both sets of results.
  • One major difference:  Google shopping is free for ecommerce sites to submit; Bing only has a paid option for now.
  • Bing lets you to share results (social sharing) on Facebook, Twitter, and email, Google does not.  But the sharing links point back to the images on Bing, not to the original images on your site.  You also have to grant access to Bing on Facebook.
  • Bing allows “document preview” when you rollover the entry.  It will also play videos in preview mode – but only those on youTube.  If you look at the behavior, information from the page shows up.  To optimize the presentation of that information, Bing takes information in this order:
    • H1 tag first – if title tag and h1 tag don’t match, it takes the H1 tag
    • First paragraphs of information
    • To add contact info, add that information to that page.  Bing is really good about recognizing contact information that is on a page.
      • Address
      • Phone
      • Email
      • To disable “document preview” enter the following
        • Add this meta tag to the page: <meta name=“msnbot”, content=“nopreview”>
        • Or add this line to robots.txt: x-robots-tag: nopreview

      Rand Fishkin: Ranking Factor Correlations: Google versus Bing

      As usual, Rand brought his array of statistical knowledge to bear to compare how Bing and Google react to different ranking signals.  Here are the takeaways:

      Overall Summary of Correlations with Ranking, in Order of Importance

      Bing Google
      1. Number of linking root domains
      2. An exact match of .com domain name with desired keyword
      3. Linking domains with an exact match in the TLD name
      4. Any exact match of the domain name with the desired keyword
      5. Number of inbound links
      1. An exact match of .com domain name with desired keyword
      2. Linking domains with an exact match in the TLD name
      3. Number of linking root domains
      4. Any exact match of the domain name with the desired keyword
      5. Number of inbound links

      Domain Names as Ranking Factors

      • Exact match domains remain powerful ranking signals in both engines (anchor text could be a factor, too).
      • Hyphenated versions of domain names are less powerful, though when they show they show more  frequently (more times on a page)  in Bing (G: 271 vs. B: 890).
      • Just having keywords in the domain name has substantial positive correlation with high rankings.
      • If you really want to rank on a keyword, make sure you get exactmatchname.com as the TLD.
      • Other exact match domains may still help, but don’t have as high correlation.
      • Keywords  in subdomains are not nearly as powerful as in root domain name (no surprise).
      • Bing may be rewarding subdomain keywords less than before (though G: 673 vs. B: 1394).
      • On alternate TLD extensions:
        • Bing appears to give substantially more weight to these than Google.
        • Matt Cutts’ claim that Google does not differentiate between .gov, .info and .edu appears accurate.
        • The .org TLD has a surprisingly high correlation with high rankings  but you can attribute this to elements of their authority – more links, more non-commercial links, Less spam.
        • Don’t forget the exact match data  .com is still probably a very good thing (at least own it).
        • Shorter URLs are likely a good best practice (especially on Bing).
        • Long domains may not be ideal, but aren’t awful.

      On-Page Keyword Usage

      • Google rankings seem to be much more highly correlated with on-page keyword usage than for Bing.
      • The alt attribute of images shows significant correlation as an on-page ranking factor. (I always thought so and it’s one of the elements most SEO newbies miss.)
      • Putting keywords  in URLs is likely a best practice.
      • Everyone optimizes titles (G: 11,115 vs. B: 11,143).  Differentiating here is hard.
      • (Simplistic) on-page optimization isn’t a huge factor.
      • Raw content length (length of page and number of times the keyword is mentioned on the page) seems to have only a marginal correlation with rankings.

      Link Counts and Link Diversity

      • Links are likely still a major part of the algorithms, with Bing having a slightly higher correlation.
      • Bing may be slightly more naïve in their usage of link data than Google, but better than before.
      • Diversity of link sources remains more important than raw link quantity.
      • Many anchor text links from the same domain likely don’t add much value.
      • Anchor text links from diverse domains, however, appears highly correlated.
      • Bing seems more Google-like than in the past in handling exact match anchor links (this is a surprise!).

      Home Pages

      • Bing’s stereotype holds true: homepages are more favored in top results vs. Google.

      Twitter, Real-Time Search, and Real-Time SEO

      Steve Langville – Mint.com

      Steve had a lot of interesting points, and I thought his approach to real-time was one of the most sophisticated I had heard.

      1. One element of his strategy is what I like to call “Merchandising Real-Time Search.”    Basically someone at Mint has a merchandising calendar of important dates/topics in consumers financial lives (e.g. tax time) and also watches for hot topics that could impact a consumers sense of money (e.g. new credit card legislation).  Mint then has a team that can create new content on that topic that is likely to generate word-of-mouth.  At that point, they push the content out and then energize their communities on Facebook, Twitter, etc. by promoting the content to them.  This generates buzz and visits back to mint.com.
      2. Mint has also created Mint Answers, it’s own Yahoo Answers-like site where people ask and answer questions on financial topics.  The result is a lot of user generated content on Mint.com on critical keywords that yields high ranking in the SERPs.
      3. Mint also developed as Twitter aggregator widget around personal finance and put this as a section on their site.  Twitter’s community managers then retweeted these folks who then signed up for @mint and began retweeting @mint tweets.  According to Steve, the amplification effect was huge.

      Danny Sullivan

      As always, Danny had some really interesting insights to add about real-time search.  I will honestly say that many times I still think Danny, like many search marketers, thinks “transactionally” about search , as compared to consumer marketers who think about having an on-going “conversation” with a customer.  (More on that notion later).  But in this case, Danny really showed why he is known as an industry visionary:

      • Search marketing means being visible wherever someone has overtly expressed a need or desire.  It is more than web; more than keywords.  An example is mobile apps –  search by another name- so I guess he agrees with Steve Jobs on that one.
      • This was uniquely insightful. Whereas normal search is a many-to-many platform where anonymous individuals post  content whose authority grows based on “good” links that are added over time, real-time search is a one-to-one platform where clearly identified people post questions or comments  and get responses.  Authority comes from the level of active engagement, not links.  I had never heard real-time described this way, and it is a succinct but very sophisticated definition of real-time search.
      • You can use conversations to identify folks interested in what you need. Not a new concept, but good to repeat.  So if you have a service that sells vacuum cleaners, search for “anyone know vacuum cleaners” and the folks who have an interest are now identified and you can respond to them.
      • Get a gift by giving a gift. That’s the fundamental currency of social media. Danny answered 42 questions from people who didn’t know him, didn’t follow him.  He got no complaints and 10 thank yous.
      • Recency versus Relevancy. Anyone doing real-time gets this – that authority can come from having high-quality information or having reasonably high quality information in a very short time frame – in other words, sometimes the recency of news makes it more worthy of attention than something older but more thought out.  Danny believes that as Twitter matures (and maybe the entire real-time search business – that wasn’t clear), relevancy is going to get a higher relative weighting, so that relevant results will get more hang time in the SERPs.

      Chris Silver-Smith

      I have trouble summarizing all of Chris’s talk – and it was a very good talk – because so much of what he talked about was covered in my notes from other speakers.  So here are the unique points from his chat:

      • You have to decide how you resource Twitter and other sites.  Questions to ask for your strategy
        • Consumers First: What are consumers saying about your site/company already? How might they use your Twitter content? Develop representative Personas of consumers who would engage with you on Twitter.
        • Time/Investment: How much time do you have to devote to Twittering? Do you devote someone to spend time dailyreading/responding to Tweets?
        • Goals: What are some advantageous things you could accomplish by interacting with consumers in real-time?
        • Strategy will decide whether you hire a full-time person, part-time person, or use automation.
        • Use OAuth for API integration as it shows the application the visitor used as an appended data point
        • Convert your Google News feeds to RSS to make them easier to subscribe to by members of your community
        • A great tool for small business social media management is www.closely.com which auto-creates a social action page for every offer a company makes on Twitter and Facebook
        • Be brief but really clear in main point on Tweets. Include a call to action as they are retweeted at a much higher rate.

      John Shehata – Advanced Internet

      I loved John’s presentation because it confirmed many of the same conclusions I had reached about real-time search and reported on at SMX Advanced in London.  Key points:

      • The ranking factors for real-time search are very different. They include:
        • User (author) authority (My comment:  not just one site but across every site  on which the author publishes).
        • How fresh that author’s content continues to be.
        • Number of followers.
        • The quality of follows and how they act on the author’s content (is it retweeted often?  Is it stumbled?  Does someone flow it into their RSS feed?  How often?  How quickly?).
        • URL real-time resolution.
        • It is not about how many followers you have but how reputable (authoritative) your followers are.  (This is what I call Authorank and like PageRank it is passed from authoritative follower to those they follow.)
        • You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers, his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely.
        • Other possible ranking factors:
          • Recent Activity : Google pays more attention to accounts with more activity?
          • User name: keywords in your user name might also help.
          • Age: since age plays a big role in Google search engine ranking, it’s possible that more established Twitter accounts will outrank the newer ones.
          • External links: links to your @account from (reputable) non-social media sites should boost reputation as far as Google is concerned.
          • Tweet Quantity: the more you tweet, the better chance you’ve got to be seen in Google real-time search results.
          • Ratios of followed vs follow: a close ratio between the two can raise a red flag.
          • Lists: it might also matter in how many lists you appear.

      Tactics to follow:

      • Encourage retweets by tweeting content of 120 characters or less so you can save room for the RT @ Username that is added when someone passes along your message to their followers.
      • Tools to identify hot trends: Google Hot Trends, Google Insights, Google News, Bing xRank, Surchur, Crowdeye, Oneriot.
      • Same advice as Steve Langville – plan for seasonal keyword trends.
      • Don’t update multiple accounts, reTweet instead.
      • Connect your social profiles.
      • Attract reputable, topically-related followers.
      • Write keyword-rich tweets whenever possible, without sounding spammy:
        • Do not create content with multiple buzzing terms.
        • Do not abuse shortening services for spam links.
        • Do not go overboard using Twitter #hashtags – Search Engines will eliminate your tweet from search if you use too many because it “looks bad.”
        • Spammy looking tweet streams will be eliminated from search.
        • Don’t use same IP address for different twitter accounts.

      Show Me The Links

      This was a great session with a HUGE number of ideas for getting new links.  And each person talked about a very different philosophy towards link building and their tactics reflected those philosophies.  Let’s see if I can capture them:

      Chris Bennett

      • Philosophy centers on using easily created and highly valued visual or viral content:
        • Creating Infographics – they work very well.  An example – a “where does the money go from the 2008 stimulus bill” infographic generated 29,000 links.
        • Writing guest blog posts whose content is highly viral for others .  Embed a link to your site as the source.  You give the gift of traffic to them, you get links as a gift in return.

      Arnie Kuenn

      • More traditional link building
        • 50% is content development  and promotion.  The big example he used on this was the Google April Fools Day Prank about Google opening an SEO Shop.  Got picked up as “real” story by Newswire 27 days after post, went viral, generated 800 backlinks.
        • 20% is blog post and article placement.
        • 10% is basic link development.
        • 20% is targeted link requests to those few critical high-value sites. There are NO magic bullets here – it takes creativity and just good old-fashioned hard work and persistence.  But the rewards can be substantial.

      Gil Reich

      • Use badges with your URL embedded that benefits the person who puts on site (e.g. “a gold star” validation).
      • Write testimonials for other folks.
      • Write on sites that want good content and can deliver an audience.
      • Answer questions on answer sites where you have the expertise.
      • Make it easy to link to you by providing the information to potential linkers.

      Roger Montti

      Focused on B2B link building tactics:

      • Backlink trolling from competitors- but also look for sites that your competitors aren’t on – you want your own authoritative link network.
      • Don’t ignore TLD .us  There are lots of good possible link sites with decent authority there.
      • Look at associations that provide ways to link to their members.  Search for member lists, restrict your search to .org and add in relevant keyword phrases to filter for your related groups.
      • Look at dead sites with broken links – see who is linking to them.  Once you have identified a dead internet page do a linkdomain: search on Yahoo to identify sites still linking to the dead site.
      • Free links from resources, directories, or “where to buy” sites.
      • Bloggers:  cultivate alliances and relationships with other sites and blogs.  Particular bloggers who like to do interviews.

      Debra Masteler

      • You have all this content that you generate as a normal part of your business.  Use it.
        • Use dapper.net to create RSS feeds of your blog content
        • Joost de Valk has a WordPress plugin at http://yoast.com/wordpress/rss-footer/ which let’s you add an extra line of content to articles in your feed, defaulting to”Post from“ and then a link(s) back to your blog,with your blog’s name as it’s anchor text.
        • Use RSS feeds from news sources to identify media leads to speak with as part of your PR work.
        • Content syndication: podcasts, white papers, living stories, news streams and user generated content (e.g. gues blogging) are still hot.  Infographics, short articles, individual blogs, and Wikipedia are not.
        • Widget Bait: basic widgets that you can build on widgetbox are getting somewhat passé but still have some value.   You need to do more advanced versions – information aggregation widgets seem to work very well right now.  Make people come to you to download them.
        • Microsites: the old link wheels are worthless at this point – the engines have figured those out and treat them similarly to link spam sites.  Those with good content – e.g. blogs or sites with good content – work.  One option is to buy an established site and then rebrand it.
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PostHeaderIcon Google TV: TV Advertisers Should Be Mad as Hell

The big announcement at Google I/O last week was the release of details about Google TV.  And it should make TV advertisers of all stripes angry and concerned.  VERY concerned.  So much so, in fact, that they should be actively seeking technologies and business models to deflect/prevent what is effectively an advertising power play by Google.

Google TV is the latest attempt to merge the television experience with a web-based TV (also called IPTV) experience on the television set (as compared to bringing TV to the web, as say a SlingBox does).  There have been numerous attempts to bring the Web to the television, going back all the way to 1996 when Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman brought to market the WebTV set-top box, marketed by both Sony and Phillips.  (Find a list of TV/Internet hybrids in the next post).  None of these has been particularly successful, for numerous reasons:

  • Most require an extra set-top box that is expensive (Google is no different.  As an example of technology that uses the consumer’s  computer or laptop as the interface to the TV, see Kylo).
  • The experience doesn’t truly integrate.  You either watch the web-based offerings or Live TV, but not both at the same time.  In many cases, the box is meant for the delivery of movies or TV shows on-demand, as compared to being broadcast in real-time.  The Roku/Netflix platform is an example of this.  PopBox is another example, but they also deliver more content – websites, social media experiences from Facebook and Twitter, images, YouTube videos, games, and music from sources like Photobucket and Pandora.
  • The interface requires a separate remote control, which adds another layer of complexity to the consumer experience.

None of these really impacts the effectiveness of a “single” broadcast TV advertisement in any meaningful way.  They are separate experiences from broadcast television and, as a rule, they do not take away from live TV viewership.  Some amount of consumers’ time is given to the Internet and movies on-demand nowadays.  Whether I interface with that experience through my computer screen or TV screen doesn’t change the amount of time I spend in an “online” mode versus a TV viewing mode, and it does not impact my current behavior around the TV ads themselves.

Google TV has come up with a different approach which, at least during an initial search, overlays the Internet on top of the television experience (see first image).  When it overlays, the interface is transparent so you can see your TV behind the browser interface that lets you search for the shows and information you want.

Google TV transparent interface

There are other times when the interface switches completely and the TV experience is put on hold while the viewer interacts with Web content (see second image), which is more like the experiences of the current generation of web-to-TV offerings.  But the difference here is how easy and seamless Google TV makes it to switch between all three of these user experiences – live TV, TV in the background, and Internet-only.  The other difference, and one of critical import for this article, is that Google intends to sell advertising within the Google TV platform.  Where, how, and how much are still to be determined.

Google TV solid menu interface

Google has definitely come up with something unique that I believe will be very compelling to television viewers as it now truly integrates the television and web experiences for the first time.

But if the consumer loves this, traditional TV advertisers should hate it.

Today, television advertising is a $70B market versus $25B for Internet and mobile search advertising.

US Advertising Market Revenues 2009

In 2010, TV advertising is projected to grow 4.3%, or $3 billion on a base of $70.2 billion. This compares to non-search on-line advertising which is projected to grow 12.9% or $1.6 billion on a base of $12.2 billion during this period.   So even though Internet advertising is growing at a faster rate, television advertising real-dollar growth is twice that of Internet advertising.

Google knows this.  Rishi Chandra, the  product manager for Google TV, mentioned the $70B factoid at Google’s I/O conference last week.  Moreover, Google also gets that despite the fact consumers are spending an increasing number of hours per day online,  television viewership is at an all-time high, with 180mm US consumers watching TV for over 5 hours/day on average.  Rishi mentioned this, as well. The guys at the Googleplex are no dummies. As the old saying goes, they can see a mountain in time. In this case, the mountain they want to cash in on is TV advertising.

What both Google and the advertisers also know is that television advertising is broken.  In 1987 an advertiser could reach 80% of viewers by airing a 30-second spot only three times. Today, that same commercial would have to air 150 times to reach 80% of viewers.[1] The rapid decline of TV ad viewership is due to the “TiVo” effect and today’s viewers’ multi-tasking habits – texting, phoning, emailing and web surfing while watching TV.  Brands are urgently seeking a solution to reengage viewers of their TV commercials as brand expenditures on television dwarf what they spend on all other ad mediums.

Now Google would argue that it has found the solution, and from its perspective I truly think they believe this.  The Google culture is driven by data and metrics.  Current television advertising with its lack of performance measurement is anathema to a Googler’s mindset.   If you are a fanatic about data-driven marketing, Google TV “solves” this problem because of its ability to bring CPC and other easily measurable formats into the web-based part of the new integrated television experience.

Interesting and correct as far as it goes.  But wrong – and I mean dead wrong – from the perspective of television advertisers who focus 3x of their dollars on television versus online advertising because it is still the most potent means of getting a message to the consumer.  Moreover, it is a power play by Google to disconnect the brand advertisers from their traditional advertising providers and drive them, willingly and like lemmings, onto the Google platform(s), thus providing Google an even stronger power position relative to advertisers.

Let’s think about this.  Television advertising is already much less effective than it used to be.  Now along comes Google TV with its overlay and ability to seamlessly move away from the live television experience.  Let’s say you are a viewer watching Lost, that you are using Google TV, and you have left your laptop in the other room because – heck – you don’t need a two-screen solution to access the Internet during live television now that you have Google TV.  Something on the show triggers you to want to look up some factoid on the web at a Lost fan site.  You plan to type in “Lost fan site.”

When are you going to type this in?  During the time the episode is airing?  Absolutely not.  You’re not going to want to miss one minute because Hurley is about to tell Jack his real name.    Or take another example – a sports case.  Are you going to put the potential touchdown play in background mode while you look up Brett Favre’s completion percentage in third down and long situations?  Absolutely, positively not, to the extent that the sports fan is thinking “don’t you dare touch the remote or there will be one less thumb in this family.”

No.  You are going to switch to the Internet experience when the television ads come on and you can safely move away from the live broadcast to find what you need before your show comes back on.

There is another interesting fact that only makes this seem a more likely behavior on the part of cross-platform TV viewers, at least the early adopters of Google TV.  In a recent study of US Online TV Viewership by Comscore involving 1,800 subjects, a majority (67 percent) of cross-platform (TV and online) viewers preferred online TV viewing because it has less interference from commercials[2].  Since these folks are the likely early adopters of Google TV, the tendency to move away from live TV during commercials will be very strong.

So what does Google TV do?  It makes the television ad spend of the major brands even less effective than currentlyBecause Google TV still provides an interruptive experience, it actually encourages cross-platform viewers who wish to increase the “information content” of their viewing experience from web-based channels to do so at the exact time that advertisers least want them to do so.

There is an even bigger implication of this for brand advertisers.  In order to keep the cross-platform consumer’s attention as they move away from viewing television ads, the brand advertisers will be forced to place their ads on the web-based portion of the Google TV interface.  And to a certain extent this makes sense going back to our previous point about measurability of TV advertising.  The Google platform is measurable and consumers more and more are becoming habituated to interacting with web-based CPC or banner advertising.  So the TV advertiser keeps the attention of the cross-platform viewer during the commercial break in the show and gets better metrics.  It’s an obvious win-win for both Google and the advertiser, and a very seductive business proposition to marketing executives looking for better measurability around TV advertising.

But for TV advertisers, Google TV is the equivalent of the poison apple given to Sleeping Beauty.  As Google TV penetrates households, more and more TV viewers will become habituated to the dual-use experience and will spend more and more time on the Google platform during broadcast television advertising pods.  And despite the fact I haven’t said much about mobile in this article until now, Google TV will also move onto the mobile platform and will provide an even more integrated experience for the consumer across the two screens, with a whole host of implications for the two-screen experience that I won’t discuss here.  Given the timing of historical consumer behavior transitions in the television market, this could take ten years. But over that time, Google will take a larger and larger share of the currently $70B TV advertising and the $2.7B mobile advertising markets.  This means that as much as an advertiser is currently dependent on Google for web advertising, they will become even more dependent on the single provider that is Google because of its reach in these other channels.

If you as an advertiser aren’t concerned about the implications of this for your business, where Google can set effectively monopoly prices you pay for ads across every major advertising platform you have, you should be.  You should be very concerned and mad as hell at this attempt to manipulate your advertising dollars even further into the maw of the machine that Google has become.

If I were a brand advertiser right now, I would be talking to my peers and looking for a second-platform solution from someone that can constrain this power play by Google before it becomes a fait accomplice.  If I were Yahoo or Microsoft, I’d be developing or investing in a prototype of something I could show to brand advertisers today and get them to invest strategically in order to prevent Google from locking up this market before it is too late.


[1] “Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising” Himpe, 2008

[2] Yuki, Tania “Comscore Study of US Online TV Viewership.” http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/4/Viewers_Indicate_Higher_Tolerance_for_Advertising_Messaging_while_Watching_Online_TV_Episodes

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