• Making Sense of Google's AdSense for Video

    For me, Google and its initiatives in broadband video advertising and distribution have conjured a comparison to the lion of the jungle. Like the lion, Google often seems to be slumbering in this hot space, yet every once in a while it wakes up, raises its head and roars to the market with a new video advertising announcement. These roars serve as a reminder to others that it is, of course, the king of the online jungle.

    But then, rather than following up these periodic roars with steady follow-on news of accomplishments, financial success and new features, Google inexplicably seems to go back to its slumber, thus returning the jungle to the startup antelopes and established elephants to do the spade work of building the broadband video ad market.

    Yesterday, Google roared again, this time announcing the "beta" release of its AdSense for Video product and the launch of its destination "Video Advertising Solutions" center, which explains all of Google's video ad opportunities and offers very well produced explanatory videos.

    Video ads have been previously announced by Google, and AdSense for video builds on these by allowing a broad range of content providers to tap into AdSense for graphical or text overlay ads on their video streams. Google announced a large network of content and platform partners, augmenting the massive inventory already available on YouTube.

    By tying AdSense for Video to its AdWords capability, advertisers have a one-stop shop for text and video ads contextually placed across web pages and video streams. Since participating publishers can expose a percentage of their streams to AdSense, they enhance their overall monetization opportunities.

    I spoke with a number of people in the advertising/technology/content communities yesterday and there was a consensus that Google's actions help validate the broadband video advertising market opportunity and overlays in particular (note Google doesn't support pre-rolls). I agree with those who said that with the overall market growing fast, Google isn't terribly competitive with other contextual ad firms; there's clearly room for more than just one player.

    On the content provider side, of course any initiative to better monetize video streams, particularly by an established player like Google, will always be welcomed. This feeling is offset somewhat by the underlying anxiety that all content providers have vis-a-vis Google - it is part competitor on the content side, and also part competitor on the ad sales side. This is particularly true of YouTube, which offers significant distribution benefits to content providers, but while also competing for eyeballs.

    For content providers' advertising revenues, while AdSense promises improved monetization, it might also lead to channel conflict as advertisers may try to pay less for targeted ad inventory available through Google rather than from the provider itself. This has been less a concern in traditional web publishing, because Google hasn't sold display ads. The risk is that over time AdSense for video could lead to a "hollowing out" of content providers' crucial ad sales capabilities. This dynamic reinforces why it's so important that those who work with AdSense for video set business rules and then adhere to them, rather than be too tempted to grab the easy, short-term money Google can provide.

    With the beta of AdSense for video, Google has again reminded the market that its unparalleled technology, content, monetization and financial strength makes it the lion of the online jungle. It is well-positioned to also become the lion of the broadband video ad jungle. Let's see if Google keeps on roaring, or if it appears to lapse back into slumber.