Phil Bronstein, owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, talked about the changing business model for newspapers. He doesn't know where it's going! He admits that! They are seeing more online traffic but they have little idea how to make that work commercially. People love their news on paper but how does one turn that into income?
In 1999, the Internetters were operating on a fantasy: "If you build it, they will come." They thought that attracting "eyeballs" would somehow result in massive revenue. An audience of millions has to be worth something. But an audience of people who are seeking free stuff is notoriously fickle. When the 'net squad and their venture capitalists scrambled to "monetize" their eyeballs, to use the stomach-truning hip-speak of the Internet boom years, it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing apart.
Well, here's the kicker: With Google's AdSense, that Internet fantasy became real.
Today, I can build almost anything, appealing to any splinter, enthusiast audience, and use Google's ad products to create a cash stream. Anyone want to see my left-handed singing chihuahua website? (OK, almost anything.)
Google has four product lines. Five, in a way.
One is the search engine. That's the engine that drives the rest.
Second is AdWords -- the ads that appear on the search engine results page.
Those are the products everyone knows.
The third is AdSense -- ads they syndicate by placing them on content pages anywhere. Google makes the ads match the page where they appear -- targeted ads, the most profitable kind. And generally, placed close to time of purchase. The cherriest cherry in the ad world.
The fourth is Google-built content. That's why they want to digitize libraries, map the planet, fund your e-mail and discussion groups and usenet. All that content is bait for AdSense.
A fifth product is their internal brilliance -- the environment that fuels one of the highest-output creativity machines in the history of the planet. (This is the product line that scares me. I wonder if they can control it. Will they be able to say no to their engineers when they give each of them 20% of the week to develop anything they please?)
Google gets it. A tiny, tiny percentage of the world gets Google.