Google should have been grilled by more intelligent lawmakers than the House Republicans

Committee hearings — in the House even more than the Senate — are always a showcase for the worst aspects of the embarrassing, benighted gerontocracy of the American legislature. That happens not least because the most senior members of most committees ask their questions first, and those tend to be the representatives from the safest districts and thus the members least interested in actual governance and the most invested in petty squabbles with the press and industry, as those are the fights that will help them get elected to a fifteenth term.

So Tuesday’s interrogation of Google CEO Sundar Pichai by the House Judiciary was a terrific use of a hugely powerful public forum in the world’s foremost democracy — at least it was, if you’ve always wanted to ask the CEO of Google, for example, how to get the crown prince of Nigeria to pay up after giving him your checking account routing number. Or whether that email forward from your golfing buddy is correct about Mark Zuckerberg giving away free iPads to anyone who buys a reverse mortgage.

It actually wasn’t much smarter than that: Throughout the hearing, representatives like Steve King R-Iowa, and Ted Poe, R-Texas, blasted Pichai for problems they had with iPhones (which, as Pichai observed to King, Google does not manufacture). Florida’s John Rutherford asked Pichai to send him “a printout” of the data Google had collected on him.

But there was a sinister cast to much of the questioning, too: Plenty of senior Republicans wanted to know what Google was doing to defend them from the threat of negative search results when people used Google’s search product to learn about them or their legislation. “I googled American Healthcare Act [intended to repeal Obamacare] and virtually every article was an attack on our bill!” whined Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

It’s undoubtedly too much at this point to expect shame or, indeed, any kind of introspection from Republican politicians, who seem fine with having installed a uniquely incompetent and compromised game show host as head of the executive branch. But it is useful to look at what all of Tuesday’s nonsense was in service of, because there did seem to be a strategy behind it.

Foremost among many distinguished contributors to this strategy was Lamar Smith of Texas, who presented Pichai with a chart published by right-wing site PJ Media and authored by anti-vax favorite and Benghazi conspiracist Sharyl Attkisson (who, to her credit, had the grace to call the chart “subjective” in the blog post where it originates), which he pronounced “irrefutable” evidence of a biased search algorithm that prevents conservatives from reaching the number of people Smith felt they ought to reach.

But behind the content-free bad-faith posturing was a real threat: If Google does not correct for its perceived “political bias,” the laissez-faire free marketeers of the Republican party might suffer a sudden attack of Marxism and correct the company’s supposed bias for them.

For instance, King demanded a list of the 1,000 people — Pichai’s estimate — who work on Google’s search algorithm (which is designed to analyze search terms in several different kinds of context, including, in most cases, its often scarily-accurate perception of what the user is looking for based on past behavior across Google’s products) to enable Republicans to police those engineers’ “political bias” until it better pleased him. “Look at their social media, and if that doesn’t solve this problem, the next step is to publish the algorithms,” he told Pichai. “If that doesn’t happen, the next step is amendments to section 230” — the law that absolves platforms of responsibility for the material published through their systems — ”and beyond that is a Teddy Roosevelt step,” a reference to trust-busting.

This would pain King considerably, he said — “I don’t want to regulate anything” — but a public discourse in which he is criticized with impunity in public is, he implied, simply too high a price for the country to pay.

Regulating Google closely — even breaking it up — might well be very good for society, but only insofar as the people doing the breaking weren’t seeking to enable the worst parts of Google’s operations (like its ability to surface unending far-right messaging to unsuspecting YouTube users looking for videos of new games or movie trailers) and to squelch dissent into the bargain.

It’s already an article of faith among people who oppose Google’s excesses that the company ought to be brought into closer alignment with the values of the society that has allowed it to grow to terrifying and formidable size, but those values might need some fine-tuning if they give power to people like King, the sort of legislator gleefully stops in to a racist nationalist talk show during a trip to the sites of the Holocaust.

Republicans at Tuesday’s hearings hardly touched on Google’s near-monopolistic power, except to threaten to end it if Google doesn’t accede to their political demands — or the wonky algorithms which do, in fact, serve up not just fascist bloviations but total fabulism and conspiracy theories, especially if users view content the algorithm sees as fascism- or lunacy-adjacent.

read more here: www.nbcnews.com

AMP Stories, Google’s Answer To The Stories Trend

Stories. It seems like everybody’s got ‘em, from Snap and LinkedIn to Instagram and Facebook – and now Google.

But while AMP Stories might look like a knockoff of the other guys, it’s actually quite a different animal.

What’s the story?

The main difference: AMP Stories are specifically designed for publishers to create full-screen experiences for accelerated mobile pages, the technology Google developed to speed up page load time by pre-caching publisher content. AMP Stories can include any rich media element, from sound and video to static images, text and motion graphics.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram Stories, which live within their respective platforms, AMP Stories are web-based, so publishers can integrate them directly into their own websites. They’re also searchable through Google across desktop and the mobile web.

That means publishers aren’t locked into a walled garden platform, and they have the opportunity to unlock new revenue streams.

“Let’s face it, publishers today need as much help as they can get,” said Kargo CEO Harry Kargman.

After launching a test at the beginning of the year with a handful of publishers, including CNN, The Washington Post, Mic and Meredith, Google brought AMP Stories out of beta in mid-November and rolled out support for direct-sold Stories ads through Google Ad Manager (formerly DoubleClick).

AMP has integrations with around 100 ad networks and exchanges, including InMobi, Kargo, Yieldmo, Unruly, OpenX and AppNexus. On the measurement front, publishers can either use the built-in AMP analytics framework to partner with a third-party vendor or send engagement data in house, or they can rely on the basic reporting functions they get from Google Ad Manager.

Why buy?

Publishers can tap into the full-screen palette of an AMP Story to tell, well, an engaging story [click here for an example in The Washington Post]. But the larger enticement is that they can monetize that engagement without sharing the revenue. And, better yet, they can monetize through their existing ad servers, which makes the Story relatively easy to implement.

“Of course, this is also in Google’s interest given that publishers tend to use the Google ad-serving stack for the open internet,” Kargman said.

Scale, though?

New monetization opportunities always sound promising, but scale is a perennial challenge. Before publishers can attract advertisers, they’ll need to find and build audiences – something that the walled gardens don’t have to worry about as much.

Google can rely on search to help drum up scale – Stories are discoverable through its search engine – but it’s not always easy to find an AMP Story in the wild.

One possible reason for the dearth: To build an experience for AMP Stories, publishers need a basic working knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript, including an understanding of how to convert these languages to conform with AMP’s specifications.

If Google made the process easier by developing a tool that automatically converted publishers’ Instagram Stories into AMP Stories, for example, more publishers would likely participate, Kargman said.

On the advertising front, however, lots of buyers already have vertical assets they’ve created for Stories on other platforms, which means it would be relatively easily to test AMP Stories ads without whipping up something from scratch – if they can be convinced the experimental budget is worthwhile.

read more here: adexchanger.com

Google is advertising in print magazines and you can’t tell

Perhaps you would buy a smartphone for its camera if you knew it was used to photograph the rapper Cardi B on the cover of W magazine. Or actress Angela Bassett on the cover of Allure. Or Ryan Gosling on the cover of GQ.

If so, you might prefer to know that the company pushing this phone—Google in this case—paid for this partnership, and that the magazine, owned by publisher Conde Nast, made a business decision rather than expressing an aesthetic or technological preference. You may want to know photographers didn’t necessarily decide that this was the ideal device.

Regardless of your personal preferences, federal advertising guidelines in the US certainly require such disclosures. In advertising, “the watchword is transparency,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers need to know when they are looking at paid promotional materials.

Yet Google’s new approach to promoting its Pixel phone’s photographic prowess presents a very murky picture that may not meet these standards. The tech company has partnered with Conde Nast publishing and celebrities to create advertisements that don’t seem like ads at all. The publisher is using the Pixel phone in magazines like Vogue, GQ, Allure, and Glamour, by photographing stars like Bassett and Ryan Gosling with the phone’s camera.

You might not even know about it. But you might learn in other ways, such as through a mention on social media.

here’s certainly nothing wrong with a partnership between Google and Condé Nast, which the publisher’s chief creative officer, Raul Martinez, described in a press release last month: “Photographing our covers with the Pixel 3 was a compelling challenge, impressing even our most discerning photographers. This strategic partnership with Google is an example of how we’re innovating to bring our audiences content that is created and distributed in new ways that reflect the cutting edge of the industry.”

What is a material connection?
“If there is a material connection between your company and an endorser, disclose it,” the FTC explains on its website. A material connection, according to the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, is a relationship between the endorser and the seller that “might materially affect the weight or credibility a consumer gives the endorsement.”

The government body states that its guides “reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements must be honest and not misleading.” As such, if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product, disclosure is a must because “knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.”

read more here: qz.com

YouTube advertisers can now target audiences watching on TV screens

Google launched a new TV screens device type on Oct. 16 that allows advertisers to target YouTube audiences watching video on TVs through Chromecast, set-top boxes like Apple TV, video game consoles and smart TVs, the company announced in a blog post.

YouTube ads on TV drove an average lift of 47% in ad recall and 35% in purchase intent, according to Ipsos Lab Experiments data cited in the blog post.

Advertisers can access TV-focused analytics and special options through the new device-type update to determine a campaign’s success, according to Mashable. Advertisers can also set specific bidding for TV viewers.

As more consumers cut the cord and turn to over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV services, many marketers have struggled to drive engagement on these platforms, which typically blend in digital elements and don’t always support ads. By adding TV screens to its device categories for YouTube, Google is attempting to ease that process while also recognizing that the channel is a huge opportunity for its own business. The Alphabet company claims that people now collectively watch 180 million hours of YouTube content on TV screens every day.

The ability to specifically target YouTube audiences watching on TV also presents a much more affordable option than traditional TV ad buys, as noted by Mashable. TV ad prices have remained high despite ratings declines of 10% to 12%, according to Magna. Not only that, YouTube advertisers can also leverage valuable TV analytics to inform their video strategies across platforms, which has frequently been a struggle.

Marketers are broadly investing more in OTT, which promises better targeted ads, cross-screen planning and buying and addressability. Magna predicts that ad spend on OTT TV will increase 40% to $2 billion this year. The increase is being driven by higher consumer adoption of smart TVs and set-top boxes, and Magna reports that 80% of all U.S. households will be reachable through OTT in 2018.

YouTube’s viewership continues to grow, with the platform is projected to overtake Facebook as the website with the second-most traffic from U.S. users, according to a recent SimilarWeb study. The platform is also popular with younger audiences, groups that marketers continually strive to reach and who are helping to drive the cord-cutting trend.

read more here: www.marketingdive.com

Google’s Android TV and YouTube loom large at IBC 2018

YouTube invading European TV screens

Google Senior Vice President Neal Mohan gave a keynote at the IBC conference on Friday. During the speech he discussed the company’s success in getting YouTube on connected TV devices:

“Thanks to our partnerships with manufacturers, broadcasters and operators like Sky and Virgin Media, YouTube is available on over half a billion certified devices globally – from smart TVs to set-top boxes and to gaming consoles.”

The investment seems to be paying off. Mr. Mohan says the television is now the fastest growing screen for YouTube. In the European Union, the time viewers spend watching YouTube on TV screens increased 45% year-over-year.

Mr. Mohan also stressed the importance of YouTube to European broadcasters:

“In 2017 alone, consumers watched the equivalent of 268,000 years of content from European Broadcasting Union (EBU) members. Broadcasters are some of the longest and most important partners for YouTube, and we’ve been helping the best broadcast moments find new life online.”

The YouTube team is leaning into the TV opportunity by making a more lean-back experience. Engineers are busy improving machine learning and recommendations to relieve viewers of the need to hunt through all the videos on the site. Instead, viewers will be able to sit back and let the app automatically play their favorite clips and shows.

However, Google isn’t only focused on having YouTube appear on the television. The company is making huge strides in running the complete pay TV experience with Android TV.

Operators are ready for Android TV

On the show floor, Google’s TV operating system is showing up all over the place. Google’s booth is right at the entrance to Hall 14, where all the new media companies show their wares. The operator tier of Android TV is, of course, a feature attraction. As well, Google ran an Android TV summit on Saturday which was one of the hottest tickets at the show. Many vendor booths throughout the RAI Convention halls also are showing Google’s pay TV operating system. Vendors like Massive, 3SS, Amino, and Accedoare showing operator solutions featuring it.

Pay TV operators have begun deploying it to their set-top boxes. For example, Com-Hem in Sweden has Android TV operator tier running on its hybrid cable/IP set-top boxes courtesy of 3SS’s solution. Amino is demonstrating the end-to-end Android TV integration it provided to Finish operator DNA Oyj on its booth.

Google has been trying to get pay TV operators to use Android TV on their set-top boxes for three years. Why do operators finally appear ready to do it? There are four main reasons:

Reason 1: The rapid growth of SVOD services

Many Europeans have embraced SVOD services as a regular part of their television diet but still, have pay TV. Operators see an opportunity to help and retain their customers by integrating SVOD into the pay TV experience. However, it’s hard to predict precisely which SVOD services their customers will use. The simplest solution is to deploy a set-top box platform with an open app store populated with many of the most popular services. Android TV operator tier delivers on this need.

Reason 2: The latest Android TV is a better platform for operators

The Android TV team has included many features operators have requested in the latest ‘P’ edition of the operator tier. For example, CEO of 3SS, Kai-Christen Borchers, described to nScreenMedia how operators could customize the search results. When a customer searches for a movie, the first viewing option shown to the user is from the operator. To see other viewing options, the subscriber must press the up-arrow on the remote.

Reason 3: Vendors are supporting it

It feels like every vendor showing operator solutions at IBC has a version that supports Android TV. For example, Accedo is showing the Android TV 1 Launcher product. Company CEO Michael Lantz showed nScreenMedia how an operator using the product could provide an entirely custom Android TV experience. The operator app starts up when the box starts, and the subscriber remains in that experience throughout.

Reason 4: It’s free

Google doesn’t charge a license fee for Android TV operator tier. It does come with conditions, like providing access to the play store and inclusion of the Google assistant. However, these are small prices to pay for such a capable operating system.

read more here: www.nscreenmedia.com

Facebook Now Beats YouTube for Video Viewing

It’s time to shift those budgets from YouTube to Facebook, a report suggests. According to a study by Slidely, maker of the Promo video creation platform, 47 percent of viewers say they watch more videos on Facebook now while 41 percent watch more on YouTube (only 8 percent say they watch more on Instagram). It looks like Facebook’s efforts to become the leading video destination are a huge success.

But people don’t simply watch more videos on Facebook now; they also prefer the video ad experience there, as well. While YouTube is known for its easily skipped ads, 71 percent of those surveyed said they find the sponsored videos in their Facebook feed to be relevant or highly relevant to their interests.

“This is fantastic news for marketers because it confirms their paid social budgets are going to good use. Not only are consumers watching sponsored videos, but they’re also finding them relevant (which is, of course, critical to successful marketing),” the report says. “For marketers, this also points to the extreme importance of closely targeting the right users. Consumers have come to expect that sponsored social content be perfectly tailored to their lives and their interests.”

All that video ad viewing is turning into consumer action, as the report finds 70 percent say they sometimes or very often visit the company’s website after watching a video. Also, 60 percent say they sometimes or very often visit the company’s social page after watching a video.

The survey looks at the popular Stories format on Facebook and Instagram, and finds viewing high. While 68 percent say they watch Facebook or Instagram Stories either sometimes or all the time, that number zooms up to 81 percent for those under 34.

view the full report for free online (no registration required).

read more here: onlinevideo.net

The Battle Against Bad Ads

Around a month ago, Google released its built-in ad filter for Chrome, which blocks ads that are widely considered the most disruptive, while allowing more innocuous ones to show. This could cause major changes in the digital ad market, especially for Google’s platforms, such as search and display ads, as well as YouTube ads.

Given the context of ad blocker usage today, the move is widely considered a strategic one that could benefit the digital ad market in general and Google in particular. With a built-in ad filter on one of the world’s leading browsers, people may be less inclined to buy more stringent software. This would allow publishers, especially Google, to make steady money off their more discreet ads—rather than losing them all to another program.

More importantly, it shows that Google is willing to listen to users’ preferences.

In 2016 there were over 615 million devices running ad blockers of some sort, with growth especially strong among mobile devices, according to a study by PageFair. In addition to browser extensions, users can now get dedicated ad blockers through mobile apps or VPN services. With interruption as the second highest motivator for ad blocking (29%, just behind 30% for security), Google’s concession could be the key to building goodwill.

While YouTube’s video ads may emerge largely unscathed, there’s still much that can be learned from how Google and ad publishers are reframing the terms of engagement. What was once a fight against ad blockers is now a battle against bad ads.

When Ads Go Bad

When should you consider an ad bad? For users, obviously, it’s when it detracts from their online experience. The most widely hated ads are non-skippable video ads and auto-play ads with audio. You know, the ones some advertisers call “high-impact” as a euphemism.

But consider it this way. If users hate your ads, they’re not going to like you any better. So any ad that drives users away—”high-impact” or otherwise—is something that brands and publishers should consider a bad ad too.

Furthermore, experience has shown that you get more out of listening to your customers than trying to fight them. While some websites have tried ad block walls—features that hid content from users until they removed or disabled their ad blockers—customers have proved stubborn.

When faced with an ad block wall, 74% users would rather leave than disabled their ad blocker. And considering that 90% of users have been faced with such a situation, this isn’t merely a hypothetical scenario.

Conversely, users are willing to compromise: 77% of ad block users surveyed indicated that they found some ad formats to be permissible. Skippable ads are likely to tip the balance in advertisers’ favor: research from Treads showed that 79% of consumers would consider disabling an ad blocker if they had the option to skip or close ads.

The takeaway, ultimately, is that pitched battle with the audience does publishers no good. For brands, it could very well do lasting harm. The best way forward would seem to be close to the options Google has chosen, which is finding the middle ground.

Get Good

The question we’re left with is this: how can video ads better satisfy users’ preferences?

Interruption is the main culprit in dissatisfied viewers, so the various solutions have attempted to address it in different ways.

Some solutions focus on content adjustments. These have more to do with the conceptualization and execution of ads on the creative front.
Other approaches have attempted to tackle platform issues. These have more to do with the technology used in calling and displaying ads.
In terms of content, many analysts say that a move to native content is a good idea. The Treads research shows while 48% of users consider pre-roll ads intrusive, only around 23% said the same of native video ads.

For those looking to reach audiences specific to YouTube, however, that’s not much of an alternative. And that is where influencer marketing steps in. Having influencers on YouTube—or other video platforms—benefits you in two ways.

The first is the standard set of benefits you get from influencer marketing. You gain access to a captive, targeted market; your brand is recommended to them by someone who knows how best to reach them, and you get the endorsement of someone they trust. If you partner with a discerning influencer, then you can rest assured that your ads are likely to mesh with their audience.

The second benefit is that by having your ads integrated directly into the video, you get around the problems of the intrusive pre-roll and jarring mid-roll formats. On top of the abruptness of such ads, they usually involve sudden alterations in quality or gaps in loading. Ads that are part of a video will play more smoothly, creating less of a disruption.

The jarring break in pre- or mid-roll ads is something that video platform Brightcove has been trying to tackle more directly. Through a method called “Lift,” they’ve attempted to solve two problems at once: the disruption and quality issues that come from having a video play in the middle of another one; and the signals that allow ad blockers to stop video ads, to begin with.

read more here: vidooly.com

IAB says revenues up 21% to $88B in 2017. What they don’t say: ‘not for you’

The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) is out with its Q4 and 2017 year-end state of the digital advertising industry report. In a repeat of the past several years, digital advertising revenue is up. There was growth across formats and devices. And while the IAB doesn’t name names, Facebook and Google continue to suck up most of the oxygen in the room.

The data for the IAB report is collected from IAB member companies and publicly available corporate data by PwC.

Overall, digital ad revenue grew 21.4 percent to $88 billion in 2017. To put that in perspective, PwC says the revenue change in digital seen last year is greater than in the newspaper industry as a whole.

Digital video increased overall share in 2017, chipping away at search, to $11.9 billion, up 33 percent from $8.9 billion in 2016. Search still continued to grow at 17.5 percent in 2017, to $40.6 billion. Banner revenues, which includes banners, sponsorships and rich media, totaled $27.5 billion in 2017, up 23 percent from 2016.

Mobile continues to gain share, accounting for 57 percent of the overall digital ad pie in 2017, to reach $49.9 billion. That’s more than all digital ad revenues in 2014. Mobile has seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.4 percent since 2010. Mobile share grew across all formats, as shown in the slide from the IAB webinar on the report.

Despite mobile’s ascendance, desktop revenues still grew in 2017, with a CAGR of 6 percent over 2016.

CPMs also increased in 2017, according to data from SQAD.com shared by the IAB. CPMs for in-stream video were up 3 percent 2017 year over year to $25.22, and CPMs for display rose 6 percent to $14.72 on average.

Social media isn’t broken out as a format, but its share of revenue topped 25.2 percent in 2017, reaching $22.2 billion. Facebook, of course, accounts for the bulk of social media advertising spend in the US.

Duopoly dominance
The IAB doesn’t release data on specific companies, but the top 10 companies commandeered 74 percent of total revenues. That share among the top 10 has remained relatively consistent, says the IAB. The elephant in the room is the fact that the top two — Facebook and Google — now make up the majority of that 74 percent.

During the webinar announcing the IAB report, Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research shared his analysis of Google and Facebook’s share of the market in the US. Acknowledging there are “a lot of assumptions” that go into these estimates and that his analysis is based on gross revenue, Wieser said, “It seems clear they are taking share. [Google and Facebook] probably accounted for 90 percent of the growth. The rest probably accounted for 10 percent or so.” Weiser pegs the duopoly’s share of US ad revenues at above 70 percent.

read more here: marketingland.com

YouTube TV, Is There a Path to Profit?

Like other virtual MVPDs, YouTube TV is a money-loser.

That’s the bad news. “Even worse, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious path to not losing money,” Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger explained in a Weekend Media Blast analysis on YouTube TV issued Friday. “The financial model doesn’t scale.”

YouTube TV doesn’t break down its financials publicly, but Juenger estimates that YouTube TV is losing about $5 per month per sub, but readily admits that the toughest assumption in making that calculation is the CPM on the product. Given the current, relatively small size of YouTube TV’s sub base, that’s not a material number for a deep-pocketed company like Google and its parent, Alphabet.

Even at 1 million subs, YouTube TV, which is also exposed to annual price inflators from programmers, would lose $60 million per year. “Not even a rounding error for Alphabet,” Juenger noted. “No analyst would even bother modelling it.”

But what if the losses grow to $10 per sub and YouTube TV pulls in 5 million subs. “Now we have a loss of — $600mm OI. Material yet? How about 10mm subs, now we exceed -$1bn in OI losses. Surely, what would catch investors’ attention.”

With that as the backdrop, it’s clear that YouTube TV’s financial overhang is greater the more successful it becomes from a subscriber basis.

“Google knows this. So what is their plan?” Juenger asks, holding that he doesn’t believe it’s their intention to lose money on every YouTube TV sub indefinitely.

Google hasn’t provided those details, but Juenger speculates on a handful of items – some more disruptive than others — that could be part its plot to improve the business as it moved further down the road:

1. Google believes consumers will “fall in love with the product,” giving it the green light to eventually raise the price enough to generate a profit. Notably, it already has raised the baseline price of YouTube TV following the recent addition of networks from Turner. But raising prices will be difficult, Juenger said, because of video competition and “reference points” from SVODs such as Netflix and Amazon.

2. Google believes its ad model will prove so superior, they will generate CPMs will in excess of what Bernstein has modeled, and spread across Google’s video inventory in a way that helps put YouTube TV in the black.

3. Google believes their advertising model will prove so superior, TV networks will turn over national inventory for Google to sell. But Juenger says it’s unlikely that networks will cede the rights to any of their premium inventory (or semi-premium or dubiously-premium inventory) to a third party.

4. Google believes they will gain enough subs and importance in the marketplace to push back on TV network price demand, and possibly drop overpriced or unwanted networks. Juenger points that that this one is probably folly, as no MVPD, virtual or otherwise, has been able to pull this off.

read more here: multichannel.com

Google’s Ambitious Ai-Backed Plans for Podcasts

Google has built a strong foothold in web search and video streaming, but it’s now looking to make audio its new forte with a reimagined podcast and audio search functionality.

Like Google co-founder Sergey Brin mentioned this week, Google is using its full AI and machine learning capability to transform a number of services. And it’s doing the same with podcasts, and how we listen to them.

Google Podcasts is now a standalone division at Google, being led by Product Manager Zack Reneau-Wedeen. He recently sat down with Pacific Content in a five-part interview series, which we have linked throughout our summary here. Here’s everything you need to know:

Making Audio A ‘First Class’ Citizen

There’s a podcasts category in Play Music, but Google sees podcasts as a dedicated product and has decided to give it a prominent placement in search results. The search giant wants to make audio a ‘first-class‘ citizen that should be placed next to text, images, and video in search results. This could be a game-changer.

Google wants to people to be able to play podcasts, right from the search results, removing the need for a dedicated app. If Google thinks a podcast is able to answer a search query then it’ll show that to users and try to get new listeners.

This means one could expect to see podcasts that have talked about your search topic, be it sports, music, movie or celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Sachin Tendulkar over the next few weeks and months. This requires podcast metadata and Google has the power to decode and handle it all. Speaking of the same, Reneau-Wedeen says:

“In the longer term, integrating with Search means figuring out what each podcast is about and understanding the content of that podcast. This is something Google has done extremely well for text articles, as well as for images and even more structured data such as maps. We can help with audio, too.”

Podcasts in Search Results
Google has started acting on its plan and introduced a new native podcast section in its Google app on Android. It allows you to search for podcasts, showing them inline with all your results or directly queue them via Google Assistant using simple commands, such as “Hey Google, play the Vergecast podcast.”

The podcast section appears like a full-fledged app on its own, complete with your subscriptions and custom recommendations. The podcast player is baked right into the Google app and features your usual playback controls, along with seeking and speed control features.

Reneau-Wedeen said podcasts are more often consumed by iOS users and his team wanted to design a podcast experience that can work best on Android. At the same time, Google wants focus on device interoperability and wants to build an intuitive experience that’s consistent across all the Google products, be it Android or Google Home or any other Google Assistant product, and even on iOS. Reneau-Wedeen further added,

“Our team’s mission is to help double the amount of podcast listening in the world over the next couple years.”

Audio SEO & Monetisation

With audio getting prominent placement in search results, Google will tweak its algorithms to help listeners discover new podcasts while also defining guidelines that’ll help you rank your content higher in search. This is possibly going to be called Audio SEO.

Google already enables you to tinker with the settings to make your podcast appear in search results but there’s no audio SEO in place right now. This phase of the product is going to important when podcasts are finally able to give you an answer to your query, similar to the recently launched celebrity video answers in search.

read more here: beebom.com