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Google TV; it's all about the data

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 24 May 2010 12:54

An early look at how it all comes together

I tell ya, Google just never stops freaking/creeping me out. Sure, as a geek some of the tech is deffo interesting, but as a human being, it's often disconcerting. A while back I started collecting some patents from Google (and Microsoft) on advertisement targeting for TV. Sure, not (yet) directly search related, but pretty interesting none-the-less. Now that it's making news, I thought we'd dig into it some.

First, a little background on what we know from the recent buzz around the web;

Intel and Google are teaming up with a 'Smart TV' platform. This incorporates Intel's Atom processor and Google's Android platform. Sony is also going to implement in their TV's (it is also in set top cable provider boxes) and Logitech is also on board.

Cnet reported that, “the devices will be designed to access Internet content alongside traditional television programming.” This could mean video and ultimately streaming TV from websites such as Hulu or even the network websites themselves. Hint, if you haven't embraced Video in your content strategy, it might be time to get on it.

It's all about the targeting

Along the way this little tidbit from emerged;

Google is expected to call on its Android developer community this week to create applications for TVs and its software could prove popular if it also promises advertising revenues for TV manufacturers.

Yup, as you may imagine, there is certainly an element of behavioural targeting for ads that will come into the mix. Check out the clip in this video I have set up – 10:53 – 11:40 Discusses set top box ad targeting;

Ok, so we can certainly see where Google's play is on this one. We can also look at a post from a year ago.... which Google says that they can “make TV ads more relevant to viewers and to deliver more value to advertisers.”. One does need to take note of that last one. That there is a large element of advertising, as always, at the core. And what they claim is the unique perspective is they believe that “viewers send signals about what they want to see on television with clicks of the remote control.”. Yup, my ol favourite, behavioural targeting.

They go on to state that (even at that point and time) they used data “from millions of anonymized set-top boxes (STBs) to see which channels they were tuned to second by second. ”. Why would they want such granular data? Well, they are seeking to take the personalization show on the road. They want to know what ads were shown and what percentage of them you watched (ie; first few seconds, 50% or the entire commercial for example).

Some potential factors they believe affected viewing were;

  • the nature of the programming
  • time of day
  • the day of the week
  • personality of each viewer

This all can be used to better predict which types of ads will, (historically) have favourable reactions. For not only display, but development. Watch this;

We have seen this with web search with personalization and in social with their interest in profiling users, (for advertising purposes). By extension the world of mobile (Android etc...) has personalization and lot's of geo-targeting. Now we're moving into the world of television. This is why I've written in the past that Google does creep me out at times.

The where and the how

What does (Google's) the future of television look like?

It means we will ultimately be viewing video (and even surfing) from our TV's instead of your traditional computer. We will have web enabled access from our TV which can now be tracked and monetized by Google. I personally already had a hard drive hooked up to my TV which means they'd better offer something damned special if they want me to give up my personal data... I don't care how personalized the (Ad) experience is.

I repeat; this is merely an expansion of what they've been playing with for some time now. It is merely going more mainstream and they've more strategic alliances in place to actually make it work (can they EVER properly monetize YouTube? Dunno). One interesting thing I heard was having the ability to use your android powered phone (or tablet) to either browse, or use as a defacto keyboard for your Google enabled TV.

The real details, remain to be seen.

The Patent Trail

Next I wanted to look into a few interesting patent filings that Google had out on the topic so that we can see what might be at play here.

Here's the patents I came across on this stuff;

What we have here is a system that can;

  • Monitor watching habits
  • Monitor audience size and composition
  • Predict viewing success rates
  • Offer networks potential (targeted) advertisers
  • Manage the advertising system (for advertisers and content provider)
  • Maximize ad rates with targeted viewers

If I was to explain it in any way, I'd have to say it's like a supped up version of Nielsen's ratings with an advertising system in tow. This really isn't new territory in as much as it is a new medium for the Google folks.

Another interesting aspect outlined in the patents is the ability to pay for not only impressions but but priced based on full or partial viewings of the ad. And as with all things Google, there is a bidding system to get max dollars for the content provider. They even describe being able to have 'household' or TV specific (for homes with more than one TV).

There are some interesting approaches here and if you're so inclined, I'd advise reading some of the patent filings.

Google TV patent

Bill has some coverage on one of the filings; Measuring Google TV Advertising and Privacy

And Google isn't alone, Microsoft has also looked into this arena; Interactive entertainment and information system using television set-top box and Television system targeted advertising

TV Ads aren't new to Google

Nope, not at all. This is merely something that is being refined and now expanded. Here's a vid from AdWords;

Or to get more acquainted;

As stated before, this is by no means a new grab, but an expansion of what was already in place. It's time has come (?). Considering the potential value here for advertisers, providers (and of course Google) we can safely assume this will be the way of the future in one iteration or another.

In the past there have been issues with ad stock at unattractive times of the day. Obviously with the recent developments, is unlikely to be a problem moving forward. Not only do we have traditional television, but internet TV and YouTube where this can be implemented. It is a new frontier into TV/Movies on Demand. I can smell a YouTube re-branding in the works.

It's all about the data

I doubt this comes as anyone's surprise that works in the world of search and search marketing. This now helps Google truly sow together all the data from our main access points;

  • Web Search
  • Surfing Habits (toolbars etc..)
  • Social Graph
  • Mobile and geo-location
  • Television and internet video

And that's a limited list that doesn't even get into other minor aspects such as RSS and more. Google is truly building what may some day become the ultimate behavioural targeting system. As a geek, this is great stuff. As an advertiser/content vendor, love it. As a person that understands historical application of great knowledge/discovery? I am starting to become very concerned.

At what point to we implicitly trust our data with such mega corporations? To the point where they can actually plot and potentially affect our evolution? It does seem problematic upon closer inspection.

Make no mistake, there are some serious implications even beyond mere privacy at stake here.


To my marketing mavens

At the end of it all, we end up asking; what's this mean to us search marketers?

I can tell you one thing, it opens up even greater interest in the world of video than ever before. And that does not bode well. We've learned through polls and chat session with our fellow geeks that video is one area that many among us are not up on. As you might imagine having a video strategy, inclusive of YouTube, just become far more important. Pandora is out of the proverbial cube and there are new areas for opportunity for all.

We can also state that those content providers that don't capitalize on video are going to go the way of traditional media... a long fall from grace. Sure, you CAN manage without it, but your competitors might just leave you in the dust adopting more high powered content programs.

From an SEO level, we really can keep on doing things the way we always have. That is of course if you're already targeting YouTube/Video in your activities. This isn't really changing the face of the internet as much as it is changing the face of television. This means we have new access to a medium that wasn't readily available before.

It is a very interesting development which we here at the Trail shall be keeping an eye on and if there are any other developments, we'll be posting it.

Some interesting links I came across along the way;



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