Friday, April 21, 2006

Google Gains in Monetizing its Infrastructure but Strains to Gather the World's Content

The New York Times' summary of Google's quarterly earnings is a good piece, highlighting increased revenues from value-add initiatives such as Google Maps, Google Video and Google Earth, as well as the success of new news portals in overseas markets. paidContent.org notes that Google's Jonathan Rosenberg waived off notions of monetizing GoogleBase (in spite of reports of Google Payments being in the hands of key GoogleBase users - see Ecommerce Guide) and sees GoogleBase primarily as a way to gather more content for Google's search engine. It's all about growing the contextual value of content at Google, including scattered A/B test sightings (PC World) of expanded search results with more result-specific content, keywords, links and searching.

Apparently gathering all the world's information and making it useful is putting quite a strain on Google's infrastructure: "We have a huge machine crisis," Google's CEO Eric Schmidt noted, prompting this little tidbit in the Times article:
Jordan Rohan, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets, called Google's capital spending "unfathomably high," noting that it spent the same percentage of its revenue on equipment as a company in the telephone business, an industry traditionally seen as far more capital-intensive than the Internet.
What's kind of ironic about this observation from Rohan is the amount of media attention being lavished on cable and phone networks trying to leverage their network infrastructure more effectively for profits via Web content. Be it native search, GoogleBase or the myriad of other content products and features being rolled out by Google and other major Web content outlets the main difference between Web companies and the telco/cable companies is that their models were designed from the get-go not to be about distribution of content so much as enabling the value of content from all sources in the eyes of global audiences.

So yes, Google is a content company with a heck of a server farm and a growing network presence, but that infrastructure is always the means to a content end that eschews the "water and pipe" metaphor that the telcos and cable companies still embrace. Maybe the Wall Street analysts will come up with new yardsticks for Google that take a closer look at how well they monetize I.T. infrastructure versus the water-pipe crowd. In the meantime keep your peepers peeled for the expanded search results feature testing being conducted by Google, it's going to be a boat-rocker.
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