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July 14, 2010
Smart TV: What’s Behind Google’s Set-Top Box?
 
A major change is afoot. Gears move quietly, shifting the way we take in information. The biggest change in TV since color is happening right now as Google engineers asked themselves, "What if we helped people experience the best of TV and the best of the Web in one seamless experience?”

Chrome will enable TV viewers to interact with media in new ways. At its core, it enables you to use search to navigate channels and programs. Using a set-top box or a TV with the functionality built in (Intel and Sony are developing sets), you will be able to not only interact differently with the video you are used to seeing on TV, but you also will be able to view interactive media from the Web on your TV. Lots of people start to speculate when Google develops a new service. It can be interesting think about the motives for moving into this space in this particular manner. Three or four things are telling.

Chrome's ubiquity

Use of the Chrome browser has increased steadily since its launch. With almost 15 percent market share, it's poised to pass Internet Explorer 8. The browser wars are not over. In fact, there is an interesting new level of depth:

Chrome OS is an open-source operating system designed to work with Web applications. The video below helps to explain why we might want something like that and introduces an interesting question that every Google Apps consultant is happy to hear: With the advent of Cloud Apps, why do you need a traditional operating system?




So what? Chrome users will gravitate easily to Chrome OS without friction. Google TV will introduce Chrome to the lowest common denominator (TV viewers). Chrome's ubiquity as a browser for Web and TV will help facilitate the acceptance of the Chrome operating system, and this will increase the dent in Microsoft’s market share. That’s not the big deal, though.

Television app appetite

Everyone loves mobile apps. It’s like we’re all a bunch of freaking Batmans walking around with our personal utility belt of neat toys. I have an app that tells me where I am, an app that tells me what people are talking about in the general vicinity, an app that tells me where the good food is, and an app that tells me weather, among others.

Google TV has the potential to combine our love of apps with America’s first love: TV. Bringing apps to the lowest common denominator increases the likelihood that users get hooked on them and realize that they need them for their phone, computer, and everywhere else that apps start growing. Again, this is not the big deal. This will be handy, but there is something deeper.

The new face of traditional advertising 

For years, we’ve discussed the shift in advertising. Advertisers are moving from TV and print to the Web. Interruption-style advertising is dying, and interactive permission-based advertising emerges as the most effective standard. Relevance has become king, as we only want to hear about it if that’s what we’re working on right now. Smart interactive design changes the way we use the Web, and it soon will evolve in the way that we use TV.

A decade into that shift, we have come full circle, back to the centerpiece of traditional advertising, but with a major change. Anyone who follows Google is familiar with their smart acquisition and use of user data, which exists on an almost scary scale. Collecting data on the way people use TV will make it possible for them to improve the advertising we see on the television.

Behavioral targeting is already in use as Google observes your surfing habits and uses those findings to choose what ads to serve you. Imagine what happens when data about your surfing habits drives the advertisements you are shown on television.

Quality score for TV commercials

For advertisers, the prospect of behavioral targeting on the television is significant. The prospect of having specific data that can better close the loop is exciting. The idea of knowing a new client arrived at our door because of a specific television commercial, which was served at a particular time in concert with a particular piece of media, may sound like the Holy Grail. There is another side to the story.

The majority of advertisers are not yet familiar with the quality score. Serious Google Adwords marketers have this word on their lips all of the time. Quality Score is the double-edged sword that makes it possible to beat the competition by playing smarter, but also makes it a lot more difficult to advertise effectively.

Google already is talking about introducing quality score to television commercials based on the number of people who watch the entire commercial versus those who click away. I predict more people will be talking about quality score in the future, as the strong likelihood exists that this dramatically will affect your potential for return in television advertising.

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Eric Werner is an interactive marketing consultant specializing in Web Analytics, Organic Search Engine Optimization, and Pay-Per-Click Management. A results-driven Google Certified Adwords professional, Eric has engaged in Adwords Management for NRDC.org while at Northridge Interactive. He currently manages a Google Grant for Youthaids.org, and leads an ongoing SEO engagement with FAMM.org. Follow him on Twitter or read his Adwords Marketing Blog.
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