Category Archives: Digital Media Strategy

Google Media

Google Media
How Google will change the way you experience music, television and media in general.

Google, Google, everywhere

It seems you can find Google just about anywhere these days. Internet search? Check. Satellite mapping? Check. Photos? Check. Online shopping? Check and check. Advertising? Check. Web analytics? Check. Finance? Check. Video? Check. Music and television? Err, not yet, but the battle plans have been drawn.

Google has been quietly getting ready to bring the power of its brand and technology to the way you experience music, television and media in general. A simple search through Google’s job boards will display several openings for programmers, technicians and project managers for their video-on-demand, set-top box and media integration projects.

From the web to your television

Google has the equipment and expertise necessary to set up a massive media distribution and tracking network, integrated into their existing search and advertising technologies.

With the release of Google Finance, Google has unveiled a simple, information-rich interface that readily lends itself to other areas, such as music and television. Imagine having all of your favorite show’s news, postings, ratings, reviews and episode guides at your fingertips. Create your very own programming guide, including not only your favorite shows, movies and music but also, why not, your favorite ads. Quickly vote on your favorite shows, buy merchandise and share your opinion with other viewers. It’s all possible in Google’s universe.

I’ve made a simple mock-up of what Google’s TV dashboard could look like (click on the image to open the full-sized, commented drawing on Flickr):

Google TV (clip 150KB)

This dashboard would give the user access to the whole Google Media experience. News about the current show (via Google News), recording (via Google PVR – someday), user comments (via Google Groups), slideshows (via Picasa), scheduling (via Google Calendar), etc. Everything about your favorite shows at your fingertips.

Google is also making inroads into the set-top box business, hoping to bring television straight into your television (whether it’s in your living room or your mobile phone). With the right connections into your home, Google could use their massive disk arrays to create a huge, universal digital video recorder, giving you access to every show on television (or at least to those shows the local networks allow you to watch). There would be no need to be home in time for a show or to remember to schedule your video recorder… they’d all be online, waiting for the correct password or payment to send it your way.

Bringing it all together

There are still some areas where Google lacks the experience to properly pull this off, but they seem to be hard at work at filling most of these voids.

Searching within video and music files (allowing you to search for particular dialogue, images or sounds within audio and video files) and online transactions (allowing you to pay or get paid for buying or experiencing content) are some of the areas Google has been actively working on (though some argue that search within compressed media files is not possible). Others, such as ratings analysis (necessary for tracking a show’s popularity and establishing value) should readily evolve from Google’s vast experience with search result placement and web analytics.

If successful, Google will offer the viewer an integral, enjoyable and information-rich media experience. Hey, they may even get you to watch the commercials. Not bad for a newcomer.

UPDATE: This article was updated on September 28, 2006 to include the Google Dashboard graphics, which hadn’t been uploaded to the server when the original article was published.

What’s Google up to?

Google has been busy lately acquiring companies (blogger, picasa, keyhole) and developing software (gmail, desktop search). Where’s Google headed with all this and what else do they need to get there?

One common theme across the latest movements from Google (picasa, keyhole, desktop search) is Microsoft Windows. All these programs are Windows-only. Even the GMail notifier developed by Google to let users know when they have new GMail is windows only.

I certainly would’ve expected Google to be more web-centric in their approach to content management and generation tools, but it seems they have their sights on Microsoft’s playground. This certainly requires more thought.

One thing is clear though, judging from Google’s shopping spree: they not only want to “organize the world’s information,” they also want to help you create it. They also want to “make it [the world’s information] universally accessible and useful” which is were these Windows-only acquisitions stop making sense, unless they’re just stepping stones to test the waters.

Keyhole is an interesting purchase. They manage terabytes of geographical information, while Google manages terabytes of content. Play with Keyhole for a couple of hours and you begin to understand how powerful this combination is. Google has already gone into the local-search arena, meaning you can find stuff in your city. Keyhole would let Google map all that stuff (say, all Italian restaurants within 10 blocks of my place) and show you a picture of your neighborhood with the restaurants indicated. Add a recommendation engine and we’re talking business.

You could also tie Picasa with Keyhole and create a map showing where you took some vacation pictures. Add a GPS to the mix if you want to make it even more straightforward. Blogger is already tied into Picasa, so you’ll eventually have some very sophisticated vacation albums (or store locations if you want to see the $ side).

Or open Google News, click on the geolocation icon next to a headline and immediately open a fly-by map of the area in question.

So what’s missing from Google’s master plan?

Well, first of all, an RSS reader – web-based. NewsGator Online and Bloglines come to mind. Connect it to GMail (so you can send stories to your friends and check your email via an RSS feed), Orkut (subscribe to groups as RSS feeds), blogger (post interesting stories to your blog), Google, Desktop Search, etc. The Google RSS reader would, in essence, be the Google Browser. Your window into the world’s information. So i believe Google’s next product (developed or acquired) will be some form of RSS reader, ideally web-based. (That or a GMessenger, 😉 ).

Second, I tend to agree with Technocapitalist, and y: Google should have acquired Flickr. Flickr still needs some work, but as a content generating and organizing system it’s huge. These guys are so cool you can even subscribe to different keywords so you’ll get any new photos posted under that keyword via RSS. I’m not sure why Google went with Picasa, which relies on locally stored photos, instead of something like Flickr which opens your photos to the world (or just your friends and family if you prefer).

If you can, play around with Keyhole for a while -they offer a 7-day trial (btw, wake up guys… 7 days? What happened to 30-day trials?). Be sure to check out the Keyhole BBS to truly understand the power and potential of this application.