Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Mass media masses at the Googleplex

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 10, 2006

[To skip to the Google presentation report click on the extended entry...]
Google's Press day started at 9.30 am but it was closer to 10am by the time I got to the Googleplex H.Q, an hour away and a traffic crawl from San Francisco. One of the security people kindly let me slip in through a side door and into the large, darkened auditorium where CEO Eric Schmidt was wrapping up his talk.

In the gloom of the room I managed to find an empty seat and when the lights came up I noticed I was sitting right in front of my good buddy Om Malik, his Omness, curator of the very fine news blog GigaOm. Om was looking good, there was something debonair about his demeanor. I later found out that it was because of his recent trip to New York where he managed to disengage from the online world and reengage in some traditional therapeutic offline pursuits.

[I've long maintained that when bloggers start engaging in therapeutic offline pursuits, then we will know that blogging has finally arrived. I'm hoping to become a test case myself... BTW, Adam Lashinsky, senior writer at Fortune, noted that if this trend continues, it could reduce the number of blog posts--which is another benefit ... :-) ]

I also found myself sitting next to my old boss at the Financial Times, Richard Waters, which was great because I hardly ever get to see any of the old gang. We joked about how no FT journalist that has ever worked in the San Francisco bureau has ever gone back to London. Richard said it would happen, one of these days.

And I was also sitting next to Karsten Lemm, the German reporter for the top magazine Stern. Karsten noted the irony that the Google wi-fi network in the room was down, yet Google wants to provide free wi-fi to San Francisco and other municipalities.

And there were many other familiar faces in the room. Obviously, David Krane, one of the long time senior communications people was there, and I got the scoop on the second Google-Yahoo joint venture, which is scheduled for delivery in November (congratulations!). The first joint venture is now 14 months old, how time flies.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Courtney Hohne, a new hire on the GOOG comms team. Courtney was working at Outcast Communications and was one of its veterans, spending more than three years at this San Francisco boutique PR agency. I told Courtney I had recently lunched with her former Outcast colleague Emma Wischhusen, now at Hewlett-Packard. Apparently both Courtney and Emma turned in their notices the same day.

It's not easy replacing people with the abilities that Courtney and Emma bring to an organization. I've known Margit Wennmachers and Caryn Marooney, the founders of Outcast, for many years and I'm sure they are pleased to see that Silicon Valley's leading companies recognize the top quality caliber of their staff. [Are you done brown nosing yet....? Ed.] Yes.

Then we had lunch outside in the sun. But, let me tell you what happened in between. Here are some quick takes, and quick picks, more to come later.

I got up and asked about click fraud, and Alan Eustace, head of engineering said that click fraud was not a significant problem and that the company was able to deal with it. I asked if GOOG would allow an independent third party, such as Fair Isaac the credit card fraud monitoring firm, to monitor click fraud rates, he said no.

I asked Omid Kordestani, senior vp of global sales [GOOG's first business operations employee] about the continuing trend of smaller proportion of GOOG's advertising revenues coming from third party web sites, such as the New York Times, that are members of its AdSense advertising network.

It used to be about half of ad revenues came from it's own sites (AdWords) and half from third party sites (AdSense.) He said that AdSense would continue to decline as a percentage of total advertising because the company had already signed most of the big content providers and so the potential for expanding AdSense money was constrained by the supply.

Eric Schmidt, CEO said:
-GOOG sees no limit to growth. It has adopted a limitless business strategy. [This means no business is safe from Google.]

-No plans to monetize Google News.

Alan Eustace, head of engineering said:
-GOOG's index is three times larger than anyone's, more than 8bn pages but wouldn't say how big.

-GOOG is investigating complaints about Big Daddy, the nickname for the latest crawl of the Internet using a new set of algorithms. Lots of web master complaints about lost or lowered page rankings.

-Link exchanges and leaving links in the comments sections of high ranked web sites "doesn't work and hasn't worked for a long time." [I wish Google would publicize this, it would stop a torrent of comment spam that is plaguing millions of web sites.]
-GOOG is developing technologies to outsmart smart operators of web site networks using unspecified high tech methods to game GOOG's PageRank system.

-Every time GOOG completes a crawl it finds up to 20 percent new content.

-about 25 per cent of search queries are brand new.

-Google's PageRank algorithm, which determines the importance of a web site, monitors about 200 different "signals."

-More than 1,000 computers are used in processing a single search query.

From the exec panel, the final presentation, featuring the co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Mr Brin was in his trademark black T-shirt, and Mr Page in a striped shirt.

-Mr Brin and Mr Page and Mr Schmidt said:
-Microsoft is a convicted monopolist.
-We don't spend much time thinking about Microsoft. We don't see much value in focusing on what someone else is doing. We want to focus on innovation.
-We want to solve new problems not old ones.
-There can be many winners in markets.
-We've probably abused the term "beta."
-GOOG is becoming more open and transparent about future plans to stop rampant speculation.
-Openness does not extend to guidance on future quarterly financial reports.

Also: Google launched four products today including new Desktop applications, etc. Google is grabbing for more of the PC "real estate" with products such as Google Gadgets which creates mini- internet applications. [This allows it to move beyond the web browser since no browser is needed to use them.]

Google needs more content so that it can sell more advertising and one way is to get experts to point to the best web sites on specific subjects (I thought Google's algorithms were supposed to figure this out?] Google Co-op is a way groups of experts can collaborate around specific topics (too bad for Seth Godin's Squidoo. Here he is in February, sharing his wisdom with Google...]

Google Trends is a way to query GOOG's search results. This will be very interesting and will put Google at the heart of any cultural analysis of our online behavior.

More to come later...

Here is the Press Day webcast.

From GOOG on new products:

- Google Co-op is a way for users to help us improve search. It lets people and organizations label web pages and create specialized links related to their unique expertise. Whether it's information about a hobby, a profession, or an unusual interest, everyone can contribute to making Google search more relevant and useful for the entire community.

- Google Desktop 4 gives you another way to improve search, by personalizing your desktop. New "Google Gadgets" deliver an array of information--ranging from games and media players to weather updates and news--straight to your desktop.

- Google Notebook (which we'll be launching next week) is a personal browser tool that lets you clip text, images, and links from the pages you're searching, save clippings to an online notebook, and then share notebooks with others.

- Google Trends builds on the idea behind the Google Zeitgeist, allowing you to sort through several years of Google search queries from around the world to get a general idea of everything from user preferences on ice-cream flavors to the relative popularity of politicians in their respective cities or countries.

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