Occupying the Internet, too?

Shortly after publishing my last rants on the strong concentration of global corporate control (see ‘Eye in the Sky‘), I came across this article on the Darren Herman blog.

Trying to figure out what the online media spend looks like, here is what he uncovered:

the digital media ad spend (search, display, mobile, etc) controlled by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, and AOL is about $40.1B

According to a recent ZenithOptimedia press release, worldwide digital advertising accounted for about $64.03B. That means that those ‘five sisters’ mentioned above, in that order, account for more than 60% of the worlds digital media ad spend. Moreover,

Google generates approximately 364% more revenue from advertising than it’s next closest rival, Yahoo!

To push this inequity even further, if you look at the comments in Herman’s blog post, Jon Steinberg (the President of BuzzFeed), points to another staggering statistic: 75% of all advertising spend is controlled by four advertising networks: WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and Interpublic (see his Flickr image here).

I’ll keep this in mind the next time I will be talking with someone of things such as concentration and dominant position. Apparently, these concepts also apply to the business models ruling the Internet. Which is something more difficult to occupy than any Wall Street.


Google Plus… Plus What?

Google has announced its earnings for Q3 2011. Impressive numbers, as always: two-digit percentage growth almost everywhere, and a pile of more than 45$B in cash. Everything comes off of search revenue.
The same good ol’ story.

Everyone was expecting a few more insights on the Android business and on the Googlerola affair. Nope. Not a single word.

However, they did confirm that Google+ has over 40 million users. And a lot of surprises still to show. Larry Page has outlined the significant effect he foresees Google+ will have on the company’s business.

Our ultimate ambition is to transform the overall Google experience — making it beautifully simple, almost automagical, because we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly.

This means baking identity and sharing into all of our products so that we build a real relationship with our users. Sharing on the web will be like sharing in real life across all your stuff. You’ll have better, more relevant search results and ads. [ed.: see a previous post on the possible implications of Google’s +1]

Of course, now comes the hard part: developing Google+ in a manner that leads it to attain a critical mass of users and makes it a real contender to Facebook.

On this side, IMHO, success is far from certain:

  1. Google+ Has 40 Million Users, But How Many Use It?
  2. Google+ will never beat Zuckerberg on his own turf. There are plenty of reasons, all well summarized in this article on Gizmodo
  3. Data analytics company Chitika recently published results of a study that revealed that Google+ traffic has deflated, following a spike after the social networking service came out of a limited beta on Sept. 20, and fallen back to the usage level it had before becoming publicly available
  4. It also looks like there are some Googlers not sharing the optimism of their CEO. A couple of days ago, a Google engineer named Steve Yegge mistakenly published publicly a post in which he leveled some sharp criticism at Google+, calling it “a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking” in large part because it lacks a strong developer platform.
  5. Until now, the approach of Google to social networks has been, to say the least, controversial. Orkut is used in Brazil only (but Facebook is growing at a light-speed pace), and they have just decided to shut down Buzz.

So, how is Google going to conquer the world with Google+? Is the Big G really going to put Google+ at the center of its existence and rebuild its other products around it? It’s sounds radical, but that’s precisely what Google seems to be willing to do. Page said

We shipped the ‘Plus’, and now we’re going to ship the Google part.

Recommendations are key tools in marketing, and +1 and Google Plus could really become the automated version of word of mouth that is supposed to sit atop search engines. Nonetheless, it’s a gamble to build your core business on a social network that’s a few months old and only has 40 million users. But it will be fascinating to see Google strive to make Google+ the formidable pivot of the ecosystem that Page envisions.

Meanwhile, sit down and relax: we still have to see what the outcomes of Facebook’s “curated search” patent will be…

You too have a wallet like this? ;)

Stop And Give Me Your Wallet!

Google has finally launched the Wallet app, although service seems a more appropriate definition. You can pay and save using your mobile phone and near field communication (NFC). The first version of the app is released to Sprint only. That means Google is deploying Wallet to all Sprint Nexus S 4G phones through an over-the-air update.

Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo has already given the service a try. Although it does not look so seamless as “tap’n’pay”, it could really be revolutionary.

As Google states:

Our goal is to make it possible for you to add all of your payment cards to Google Wallet, so you can say goodbye to even the biggest traditional wallets.

Think about all the countries where the usage of plastic money is not so popular, resulting with huge problems of transactions’ traceability. It is an established fact that countries with more electronic transactions have smaller shadow economies and, consequently, lower tax evasion rates. This is one of the key factors behind the current sovereign debt crisis affecting quite a bunch of european developed countries where, in a typical vicious circle scheme, more and more people are inclined to work outside the normal, legal framework as their country’s economy continues to struggle.

Shadow economy as % of GDP, European countries, 2010

Shadow economy as % of GDP, European countries, 2010

From the consumer perspective, the most common excuse for not using debit/credit cards when making little payments is that it is not convenient or fast enough. Besides the fact that today it is more likely to forget at home the wallet rather than your mobile, paying with the smartphone introduces the speed factor in the transaction and, above all, it’s cool (i.e. fashionable = network effect).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that NFC will solve the Eurozone crisis: I am a nerd but not that much 😎 From that point of view it is going to be just a drop in the bucket, but it surely is a step in the right direction.

In any case, we have some time to think about it: Google Wallet currently works only in the US on Nexus S 4G devices of the Sprint network. In the meantime, check out the official Google Wallet launch video.

Marketing Online Serendipity

Dilbert.com - Oct. 30, 2010

From Dictionary.com

ser·en·dip·i·ty  /ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti/ –noun

1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

In the offline shopping experience, this is quite common. You know, that feeling of walking into your favourite bookshop and picking something up in a section you don’t normally go into just because they rearranged the aisles. The moment when you stumble across some gorgeous shirt in a store you have never visited before, but your friend needed to ‘say hello’ to the salesgirl.

That magic moment where you discover something cool (and better than the others) by accident.

Or – as happened to me not so long ago – entering an hotel where you stayed only once a couple of months before and the concierge welcomes you by name.

In the online experience, things get a little bit more complicated.

Just like in the “real” world, online serendipity is a phenomenon where users encounter something they like that they were not expecting. We all know about targeting and segmentation: Amazon made a sort of 11th commandment of it (the “people like you buy stuff like this” functionality), and this has been replicated in thousands of platforms and marketplaces. Clearly, providing important and relevant information from your peers will help increasing conversion rates significantly.

But serendipity happens when you are not going for shopping.

Amazon’s lists (and the likes) never amaze. Serendipity gives you things that you weren’t looking for right now and suddenly you think: “OMG, I gotta have it!

In my opinion, the next phase will be to anticipate users’ questions and answer them before they are even asked. That’s the same kind of experience you have during your offline saturday afternoon shopping session, when you see something blinking at you from the window of that never-even-realized-it-was-there bazaar.

Social networks have a strong part to play here, but we need something more than rating and sharing to be genuinely surprised.

Google+, are you ready?

New Google +1

Is Google’s +1 the new PageRank?

PageRank LogoPageRank is a patent owned by Stanford University and will expire in 2017 (more info here). Google hold a one time paid license of this patent and in 2003, the exclusivity license was extended till 2011. After that period, Google’s exclusivity on PageRank will expire and license will become non-exclusive. What does that mean?

Sure, regarding the exclusivity period, as they did in 2003, they can renew that license again in 2011 and own the exclusive rights for this technology. But think about this: what about a page ranking based not (only) on an algorithm, but on explicit indications made by users? And what if this users were people that you know and trust becuse already added to your “circle of friends” on Google+ or other social networks?

Google +1 ButtonYesterday, Google launched his +1 Button extension for Chrome browser. Using it, you no longer have to rely on a site to implement the +1 Button: you can invoke the functionality through your browser.

Imagine if Facebook made their own browser and offered an extension to “Like” any page on the web through it — same idea (BTW, they will do it, sooner or later…).

As also TechCrunch notices:

Right now, the +1 Button just shares content you like on the web. But eventually, the plan is to look at this data as a way to affect Google Search itself potentially. That’s huge. The button also is starting to play a role in how Google serves up advertising to you.

Last but not least, here is what Google states in the +1 app description:

In addition to the practices described in the Google +1 Button Privacy Policy, by installing this extension, all of the pages and URLs you visit will be sent to Google in order to retrieve +1 information.

They are an advertising company. Draw your more appropriate conclusions… 😎