TECHNOLOGY - MAY 13, 2009
Radio Tunes Out Google in Rare Miss for Web Titan
By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO
Google Inc.'s foray into selling radio ads was supposed to show how its online-advertising brainpower could revolutionize an old-fashioned people business.
The company teamed up with Chad and Ryan Steelberg, brothers who were sharp dressers and wore deep Southern California tans. They had a technology for transmitting, scheduling and tracking radio ads. "Google is going to conquer radio," boasted the exuberant Chad in 2006.
Instead, radio tripped up Google. The company is pulling the plug on its attempt to automate radio-ad sales on May 31, exposing how far Google is from its goal of grabbing a big chunk of the multibillion-dollar business of off-line ad sales.
A look at what went wrong shows that Google misjudged the capacity of its technology to work beyond the Web, and underestimated the human side of the business. Radio stations refused to turn over airtime to a computer algorithm that set prices far lower than their own rates. Big advertisers steered clear.
The radio venture was relatively small for Google, and the company remains an overwhelming success in the ad game: It sells about one-third of all online ads in the U.S., by dollar amount. But its rare flop in radio has larger implications. Google has been on a mission to extend its wildly successful model for selling ads linked to Internet searches to traditional media such as print and TV. Now it is beating a partial retreat. This year, it also shut its newspaper ad-sales effort. Its remaining toehold in traditional media is an effort to sell TV ads.
Del resto Google non è il solo multimiliardario del Web a ricevere delusioni dall'industria radiofonica. Anche Paul Allen, ex socio di Bill Gates in Microsoft e attivo investitore, ha recentemente ceduto molte delle stazioni radio rilevate in concomitanza delle sue attività economiche in campo sportivo, un settore che vede Allen proprietario di squadre di footbal e basket. Ecco quello che racconta la newsletter Taylor on Radio-Info:
Paul Allen’s selling his last radio stations, but his sports teams remain on the air there.
One of the things Larry Wilson’s new Alpha Broadcasting can bank on is an eight-year deal to carry the popular NBA Portland Trail Blazers – owned by Paul Allen. The FM will clear the NFL action of the Seattle Seahawks – also owned by Paul Allen. So not much will change for KXL and “Game” KXTG. Allen clearly loves sports (and certainly supports his native Northwest in lots of ways). Less than two years after he bought KXL and its FM, he paid $100 million for One-On-One Sports. He re-named it Sporting News Radio to complement the publication he’d acquired earlier that year, and along with One On One came some major-market O&Os. Radio hasn’t particularly worked out for Allen (worth an estimated $10.5 billion dollars from his stake in Microsoft). In the last 18 months, he’s sold the onetime O&O stations of Sporting News Radio Network, in Boston, L.A. and New York. Now he’s selling his Rose City Radio Portland combo. Radio also didn’t work out for another 21st century new media company –