Google Buzz is dead. Is Google Plus (or is it +?) next? Who knows. Google's social networking nemesis Facebook isn't going anywhere, but with the recent addition of Facebook's sponsored posts, users are starting to find the obtrusive pokes from advertisers a tad tedious. Sure, those sponsored ads in the news feed are native, but they're unwelcome.
While it's perfectly understandable for Facebook to seek ways to monetize its massive user base, the recent effort is the latest -- and possibly last -- opening for Google to encroach on Facebook's turf.
If history ought to be a lesson, then Google Plus should quickly join the ranks of Google Wave and Buzz to make way for a YouTube-based social presence for Google to attack Facebook. After all, as I've previously commented, the connections we have on Facebook -- whom we are related to, whom we went to school with etc. -- are ironically very superficial when you consider that the monetization vehicle for social networks is advertising. However, the interest graph that YouTube has developed on each of its users is rather valuable. The longer Google goes without basing its social aspirations on YouTube, the smaller the chances that Google earns any material revenues from social.
Google cracked $50 billion in annual revenues for the first time ever in 2013. Facebook's annual revenues have grown from $777 million (2009), to $1.974 billion (2010), to $3.711 billion (2011), to $5.089 billion (2012). That is a rapidly accelerating growth rate.
Google does not break out revenues for YouTube, but rumors pegged 2012 revenues as high as $3.6 billion -- though Bernstein analyst Carlos Kirjner estimate that 2012's revenues weighed in at $2.5 billion. Forecasts pegged 2011 revenues at "only" $1 billion, with 2013's sales forecast to come in at $4 billion. Any way you look at it, it's perfectly plausible that, sooner or later, unless Facebook cracks the code and unearths some AdSense-ian ad format or new revenue model/stream, YouTube's revenues could surpass Facebook's.
Now, now, I know what you're thinking: While there have been some grumblings that individual content partners are making less money in 2013, I think that has a lot to do with the continued increase of content and clutter on YouTube: today over 100 hours of content are uploaded each minute.
And, yes, I know that Facebook has over 1 billion profiles. But YouTube greets over 1 billion users each month, according to its latest stats. While profiles are more valuable than users given the incremental amount of data they have provided Facebook, the fact is that if the lion's share of those profiles are inactive or increasingly tuning out of Facebook, then I would argue that YouTube's users are more active and thus, more valuable. When it's said and done, marketers may not care about more data if they know everything you are interested in, and can trigger ads based on what you are watching at any given moment. Facebook may know a lot about me, but my moods change and YouTube is a better barometer of that.
I'm obviously not alone in being bullish over YouTube. Morgan Stanley expects that by 2020, YouTube is forecast to generate $20 billion in revenues.
That is rich, very rich. It's certainly plausible, but to nail that, it will need to get on the offensive against Facebook.