NY Times Covers Google’s Local (Offline) Efforts

The New York Times has an interesting article that rounds up the status and mixed results (so far) of Google’s moves into radio, TV and print newspapers. Here are some interesting excerpts:

Re Radio:

Many in the radio industry are determined to keep Google at arm’s length, suspicious that its technology-based approach will turn their business into a commodity and take away the relationships with advertisers that stations have spent years building.

“It is a different model for selling radio advertising and it is controversial within the industry,” said David Benjamin, president of Triad Broadcasting, which owns about 40 stations in six markets. “There are those who believe that it could commoditize the product, leading to lower rates.”

Mr. Benjamin is not one of those people. He agreed to try Google’s system at a few stations, and he said that it had worked well so far. But he added that he was not ready to give Google his full endorsement.

“It has been a good experiment,” said Rick Cummings, president of Emmis Broadcasting, one of the largest radio networks that is currently testing the Google system.

But even Mr. Cummings said the system’s promise remained just that. “I think the jury is still out,” he said.

Re Newspapers:

Google said the volume of ads sold through the system was double what it had projected. Some newspaper industry executives say early results have been promising.

“From our perspective the tests went very well,” said Steve Rossi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of MediaNews, which is testing the Google ads in papers like The San Jose Mercury News and The Salt Lake Tribune.

Representatives for Gannett and The Chicago Tribune said the tests were encouraging but too small to be conclusive.

Re Television:

For instance, Google has approached the cable giant Comcast about selling TV ads for it, according to a person briefed on the matter. The companies would not comment on any discussions. But D’Arcy Rudnay, vice president of corporate communications at Comcast, said: “We have a very successful company, Comcast Spotlight, which has thousands of employees who have been selling television advertising for many years.

Google has been upbeat about the program, saying it has signed up about 900 stations in some 200 markets. “As we have more advertisers, we’ll be able to work with more publishers,” said Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management at Google. “And as we get more publishers, we’ll be able to work with more advertisers. It is a process that will take time.”

Some advertisers are pleased. “We’ve tested them with about three of our clients,” said Mark Hodor, vice president of direct response at Carat Fusion, an advertising agency that is part of the Aegis Group. “It has been pretty successful for all of them.”

But a recent list of participating stations, which was obtained by The New York Times, shows that Google’s access to major markets is spotty.

For instance, the list included 10 stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, but most were in outlying areas like Sonoma and Santa Rosa and have low ratings. None of the stations were in San Francisco, and Google’s top station in the area is ranked 18th in terms of audience share, according to Arbitron. Its top station in New York is ranked 27th. Google may have added more stations since the list was created last month.

It’s fairly clear that the newspaper test has been the most successful so far. But what Google is seeking to do in bringing all this media buying together under the aegis of a single company and platform is an enormous challenge. Ultimately there will need to be dedicated personnel to each of these channels and a sales/customer service force to bring in accounts and service them after they’re acquired.

As the article points out, there’s so much more money in traditional media (much of it local) it’s almost impossible for Google to not pursue it. And if it’s going to sustain its crazy growth curve (and thus valuation) it’s going to need to tap some of that “offline” revenue potential as paid search growth eventually slows.

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Re Comcast: Comcast is mentioned in the piece as having been approached as a potential TV sales channel for Google. The article says Comcast said “no.” But Comcast could be selling ads on Google and elsewhere online to its local advertisers. Comcast Spotlight has a large, yellow-pages sized feet-on-the-street sales channel.


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