Prediction: Google Will Acquire ThePudding…Parsing Voice Calls for Targeted Ad Delivery…
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the potential coming of the GooglePhone as follow-on to all things Google and their impending World Domination Tour™
The highlight of the GooglePhone rambling was my fun little illustration of how, if Google won the spectrum auction and became a mobile operator, they would offer free wireless service on the GooglePhone underwritten with ad revenues utilizing some unique applications of some of their new and existing services:
So, without the dark overlord overtones, let’s say that Google wins the auction. They become a mobile operator –
or they can likely lease that space back to others with some element of
control over the four conditions above. Even if you use someone else’s
phone and resold service, Google wins.
This means that they pair the GooglePhone which will utilize
the newly acquired GoogleFi (as I call it) served securely cached out
of converged IMS GooglePOPs
which I blogged about earlier. If the GooglePhone has some form of
WiFi capabilities, I would expect it will have the split capability to
use that network connectivity, also.
…but here’s the rub. Google makes it’s dough from serving Ads.
What do you think will subsidize the on-going operation and assumed
"low cost" consumer service for the GooglePhone.
So, in between your call to Aunt Sally (or perhaps before,
during or after) you’ll get an Ad popping up on your phone for sales on
Geritol. An SMS will be sent to your GooglePhone which will be placed
in your GoogleMail inbox. It’ll then pop up GoogleMaps directing you
to the closest store. When you get to the store, you can search
directly for the Geritol product you want by comparing it to pictures
provided by Google Photos and interact in realtime with a pharmacist
using Google Talk whereupon you’ll be able to pay for said products
with Google Checkout.
All. From. Your. GooglePhone.
All driven, end-to-end, through GoogleNet. Revenue is shared
throughout the entire transaction and supply chain driven from that one
I got a ton of emails suggesting I was a little GoogleMad and that the blue/underlined section above was neither possible or sustainable from a business model perspective. To address the former point regarding the technical possibility of what amounts to electronic parsing of audio — of course it is. I’ve blogged about that before in my DRM/DLP/Watermarking discussions.
To the latter point regarding using this as a base for a business model, check this out from TechCrunch today:
The big catch: computers in Fremont, CA will eavesdrop on and
analyze every word of your conversation so they can serve up
advertisements tailored to the topic at hand.
So all this takes is a move to a platform like the GooglePhone (what’s a "PC" today, anyway?") to enable this in the mobile market…looks like these guys were born to be bought!
Users initiate a phone call simply by visiting ThePudding’s website
(currently in private beta) and entering a phone number into the
browser. After the call begins, advertisements tailored to the
conversation will begin to appear on screen. The NYT has a good
screenshot of what these advertisements will look like here.
That’s the exact model I suggested in the underlined section above! Quite honestly, with the "privacy specter" aside, this would be pimp! It’s the natural voice-operated semantic web!
Phone conversations are monitored only by computers, not actual
human beings. The company also does not record any of the conversations
or log any of the topics discussed. Therefore, advertisements are
tailored to each particular phone call and not to trends in users’
ThePudding has already experienced a fair amount of backlash, with some calling it
a terrible idea because users will not be comfortable enough with
allowing their phone conversations to be monitored. There is also the
concern that niche users will not be swayed by this completely free
offering, because they already pay very little for services like Skype. However, ThePudding may be a potential acquisition target for Skype itself, which may be interested in developing an ad-based revenue model.
While Skype is mentioned, I’d add a whole host of others to this list if they’re smart…
Despite the criticism, ThePudding does not seem all that different
to me from a privacy perspective than Gmail. If users are comfortable
with letting computers analyze their email messages and display
targeted advertisements alongside them, why won’t they be comfortable
with allowing the same thing with their verbal communications? Perhaps
there is an important psychological factor at play here that will
always make people unwilling to let strangers monitor what they
actually speak. But consumers are caring less and less about how much
information they provide online about themselves to unverified
companies, so it doesn’t seem implausible to me that with time many
people will overcome their anxieties about this type of service.
I totally agree.
While ThePudding is currently only available through the web browser
on PCs, the company has plans to expand into mobile (and to display
advertisements on the screens of handheld devices).
ThePudding is a service of Pudding Media,
which was founded by two Israelis with experience in military
intelligence and telecommunications. The company is based in San Jose,
So whether it’s Google, Skype, Yahoo or Cisco, you can expect this technology to make its way into/onto communications platforms in the near future; it’s a natural extension of data mining…we get targeted ads today in search engines, unified communications is next. i wonder who’s going to pony up the cash. I still bet on Google — it’s a natural integration into GrandCentral!
…still waiting for my GooglePhone, although the iPhone would be a pretty damned good platform for this, too
P.S. Did you see that Google is now sinking it’s own transpacific oceanic fiber cable…