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Google Takes Manhattan

  |  October 6, 2006   |  Comments

Think the New York City expansion is just about advertising? It's much bigger than that.

What's the ultimate status symbol here in New York City, home to Wall Street, stretch limos, celebrities of all stripes, and the undisputed center of American arts and culture?

Easy. It's space.

This may technically be the USA, but New York has no supermarkets, big box stores, or even many one-car households. Even residents of the outer boroughs consider themselves lucky to live in broom closet-size studio apartments for upwards of $3,000 per month.

Bear that in mind when you consider Google's new New York offices occupy a mind-bending 300,000 square feet. I'd swear the width of those hallways are literally wider than any sidewalk in Manhattan. There's a full-sized basketball court. Both the auditorium and the "playroom" are larger than ClickZ's entire HQ. Scooters are scattered around the place to help staff get from one end to the other.

On an island as densely populated and developed as this one, that's what you call flaunting it.

Space Exploration

Google's plans in the Big Apple are as vast as Googleplex East, hardly the only landscape out here the search giant intends to occupy. Google has set its sights much wider than merely Madison Avenue. The company is here to become a media company -- or at least, a media company partner/enabler/distributor.

Consider the partnership pacts Google's made of late with Goliaths in the content and technology sectors: eBay, Viacom/MTV/Nickelodeon, Dell, Intuit, MySpace. To varying degrees of depth and success, Google's engaging in pay-per-call, radio ads, print ads, and video ads, in addition to its core businesses of search and search advertising.

New York may not be Silicon Valley, but it's certainly the nexus of print and broadcast media.

Media partnerships are something Google wants more of, as CEO Eric Schmidt reaffirmed in an interview this week. "We have this amazing product called AdSense for content, where we're monetizing the Web," Schmidt said. "If you're a publisher we run our ads against your content... How do we make that product produce better content, not just lots of content?... How we do make sure that in the area of video, that high-quality video is also monetized?"

My guess is by having a lot of meetings here in town, with News Corp, Time Warner and IAC (Google's already in a partnership with its search subsidiary Ask.com), as well as ABC, NBC, CBS, and Disney -- all of which have recently launched major online video properties. Then there are print publishers ranging from Conde Nast to the New York Times Company (whose About.com is already a partner). Radio, too. If it's media, New York's got it.

Big Gets Bigger

Google is helping Viacom not only to insert ads into its digital video content, but also to syndicate that content across the Web. If there's one thing media conglomerates like Viacom love, it's new ways to monetize the all-important library. That's largely what cable was for, back in the day. History channels, nature channels, and sci-fi channels were great recycling repositories for the first couple decades of cable television.

With Google as a partner, Viacom and its ilk will be able to re-milk the old stuff as well as help monetize new fare in an era of shrinking TV viewership combined with TiVo. "It's easy to collaborate with Google," MTV President Michael Wolf said in a recent interview. "They move fast. We'd like to do even more with them."

If Google can help TV broadcasters, as well as radio and print media, to distribute and monetize more content -- bang! It creates a vast new landscape of ad inventory.

At Googleplex East, VP of Ad Sales Tim Armstrong likened partnerships such as the alliance with Viacom to "yield management." "The advertising business has not had a lot of infrastructure investment," he noted, "We'd like to see Madison Avenue get a little bigger, scale-wise.

Neither Armstrong nor Google are limiting their sights to Madison Avenue. The goal, he said on Monday, is to create "the largest marketing platform in the world."

A bit later, Armstrong's lieutenant, Penry Price, told me that absolutely, partnering with local media companies is a priority for the New York office. Price also stressed that new sales staffers are being hired from across the range of traditional media. "They're speaking the same language as the clients they visit."

The stated aim of combining Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley is already underway in Google's vast new offices. Ad sales staff are encouraged to mingle with some 300 software engineers. According to their boss, Craig Neville-Manning, 100 projects are in development in New York -- and you just know they're not all APIs for Google Maps, or Gmail tweaks.

It's certainly no accident an increasingly media-savvy Google carefully orchestrated its new HQ opening to build buzz, curiosity and anticipation.

Be honest. If you're invited down to 111 Eighth Avenue, you're going to take the meeting, aren't you?

Meet Rebecca at ClickZ Specifics E-Mail Marketing, October 24-25 in New York City.

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Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca was previously VP, U.S. operations of Econsultancy, an independent source of advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Rebecca spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Rebecca, author of "The Truth About Search Engine Optimization," was ClickZ's editor-in-chief for over seven years.

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