Google's announcement of the television platform Google TV left a slew of unanswered questions that should have search engine marketers and advertising execs scratching their heads. Converging traditional television and the Internet puts billions of ad dollars at stake when considering that the average American spends five hours daily in front of televisions, and advertisers sink $70 billion annually to reach them. There are 4 billion TV viewers worldwide.
While Google appears to have solved the problem for cable, satellite and telecommunication providers that want to seamlessly connect the TV to the Internet, it also opens the door to a variety of issues surrounding search engine optimization, PageRank, viruses, behavioral targeted ads, and more.
There's no word from Google on plans for implementing Google AdWords, but evidently digital TVs connected to the Internet are at risk for malware attacks. At one time, people didn't think attacks through advertisements were possible, but now advertisers battle with malvertising. Don DeBolt, director of threat research in CA's Internet security business unit, says it certainly increases the exposure of the TV's operating system to attack by providing an avenue for "bad actors" to introduce their malicious code to televisions. "The key is to control what programs 'run' on the TV's operating system," he says. "If the TVs can do this it will significantly limit the ability to introduce malware. More investigation into the underlying OS and controls in the new IP TVs is required."
Alex Limberis, chief operating officer at PopBox, which began building products that connect the TV to the Internet under the brand name in 2007, says any operating system or device that connects to the Internet has the potential to attract malware and viruses, but doesn't think there's too much to worry about today. He calls malware a "biological virus" that only attacks certain species, such as Windows. Viruses are designed for specific operating systems. They typically surface to wreak havoc in platforms with mass adoption.
Some wonder what AdWords will look like on the television, and about the possibilities for behavioral targeted ads. HuoMah SEO Blog founder David Harry points to several Google patent filings and a September 2009 interview where Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt told BBC's Mark Thompson about several tech companies working to build boxes that combine the traditional broadcast experience with the Internet. The boxes have search features.
Television in the U.S. shows him ads for products he will never buy, Schmidt says, which is a waste of a time slot, suggesting the Internet provides a more targeted model for ads than television. "We have invented and are in the process of deploying systems that sit on your set-top box that give targeted ads to the household," he says. "It's reasonable to assume there's a transition going on from untargeted broadcast television to targeted advertising."
No one would dispute that Google's interest in TV is about advertising and growing the Android developers' network. The patents suggest support for behavioral targeting. Harry says the patents describe technology that tracks shows people watch, when they watch them, and what ads were viewed and clicked on, all the way through the television viewing and Internet browsing experience.
One abstract for a patent filed in 2007 describes reporting data related to content processing devices, such as televisions, that are processed to identify channel tunes and corresponding tune times of the content processing devices. Automatically generated channel tunes based on the corresponding tune times are identified. Content items that are aired during a time period defined by the corresponding tune times can be adjusted.
Another one describes television advertisements and associated advertisement parameters received from advertisers. The television advertisements are automatically selected for airing during an advertisement availability based on the associated advertisement parameters. Data related to the selected television advertisements are provided to a television provider to facilitate airing of the selected television advertisements during the advertisement availability. Reporting data related to television advertisement airings and impressions are received from the television provider.
"Google will have the ability to offer advertisers a far deeper level of targeting ads," he says. And with the technology, Google believes it can do a far "better job than current traditional methods" of tracking. Think Nielsen or a similar model that allows Google to monitor and analyze for advertisers the television shows and commercials that consumers view, along with the sites they visit before, after and between.
Google had tapped Nielsen for set-top box data to target ads years ago when it had set its sights on bringing the Google AdWords experience to other media like print, radio and television. On Thursday during the Google I/O conference, the company also announced YouTube Lean Back, which will deliver personalized feeds of videos that friends or Google's algorithm recommend. Those personalized feeds and recommendations will give Google additional data to serve up ads in its network of sites and through media partners.