Thursday, August 18, 2005

Second Scoop for the Google Float: New Stock Issues Expected to Generate $4+ Billion in Capital

As covered by Bloomberg and other major outlets Google's SEC filing for a new issue of 14.2 million shares is expected to bring in a tidy sum for fueling its growth, in spite of the filing's warnings that its earnings growth is likely to slow in months ahead. What better time to build a war chest - before the sledding gets rougher? To some degree the acknowledged pressure on their earnings is a factor of success: as their AdSense network grows, more of their revenues come from partners who take a piece of the ad revenues. But to another degree it's an acknowledgement that building a brand with unique strengths will be expensive in the face of aggressive investments by Yahoo! and others to take a piece of Google's potential revenues in new and expanding markets such as China and mobile platforms. So far Google's response seems to be to invest in content technology companies that offer them the ability to generate unique content, such as Blogger or the Keyhole technology that powers their Google Earth multidimensional mapping capabilities. In the long run it's important to have unique content that knits in well with a unique positioning, but in the short term Google's reluctance to partner with or absorb cultures with a less Google-shaped view of the world just to tack on revenues is bound to slow their progress, even if it is progress in the right direction.

Some of Google's near-term growth must come via more intelligent treatment of its users as media consumers and of advertisers trying to deliver meaningful marketing messages to those consumers. Contextual ads as deployed today are useful but showing their limits as other ad networks offer both contextual ads and more sophisticated marketing capabilities. Hopefully a good portion of this new war chest also gets allocated towards facilitating content ecommerce for publishers trying to find valuable contexts for their premium content. If Google is a media company, as stated in some of its recent filings, then it's time to start investing in a strong media strategy that helps Google build valuable and well-integrated properties that fit in with both their mission and the changing landscape of publishing in specific markets and channels. This means getting down to specifics - and like its Google Earth product, the big picture of Google's media strategy is not always complemented with ground-level details. While Google's emerging media properties are likely to remain unconventional, learning how to play with conventional players more effectively to fill in those details is going to have to be a key part of the game. Google's growing up, to be sure, and sometimes growing up is not much fun, especially when the "adults" are afraid of you. But with money to burn, Google has some interesting options as it tries to keep growing in healthy directions.
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