Planning for Google, Fox/MySpace, and MTV

SES San Jose is a common venue and time for the search engines to announce new products, features, and alliances. This year was no different. The biggest news thus far (as of this column’s deadline) is Google’s $900 million deal with Fox Interactive Media (FIM) to be the “exclusive provider of text-based advertising and keyword targeted ads through its AdSense program, for inventory on Fox Interactive Media’s network.”

Although the FIM Network may not be a household name, you’ll recognize the name of its largest property (traffic- and probably page-wise): MySpace.com. FIM must hit certain milestones to lock in the payments, but with MySpace and its other sites, it can clearly earn its $900 million. The other way to look at the deal is FIM already paid $580 million for the acquisition of Intermix Media/MySpace.

Google’s press release indicates the MySpace deal will start during Q4 this year. As a result, there may be some issues you should keep in mind, regardless of Q4 is an important e-commerce season for you or not. I’ll cover some of the plusses and minuses Google advertisers should be aware of as MySpace and other FIM Interactive media come online. (Yahoo, of course, is the big loser because the sponsor listings at MySpace are currently Yahoo Search listings.)

Separately, Google announced a deal with MTV Networks (Viacom). MTV will deliver sponsor-supported video clips of its content through Google Video and will implement a pay-per-own download program. Through the program, consumers can download selected full-length episodes of hit programs for $1.99. Clearly, Google is serious about making both ad-supported content and pay-per-download content a reality.

Marketers won’t see major shifts in clicks from the MySpace deal other than the shift in search clicks from Yahoo to Google. However, some marketers will notice an increase in contextual traffic from the FIM sites (assuming they have AdSense turned on). If you’re running AdSense now, you likely already see traffic from MySpace, as Google is already actively serving ads within the site.

Other ad networks are also very active in MySpace; however, they’re from display media ad networks. My quick visit to MySpace resulted in seeing ads from Advertising.com, Tribal Fusion, and Fastclick. For those of you who buy non-search display media on those networks, you probably have a true effective frequency cap for MySpace users that’s three times higher than you expect, as frequency caps operate on a network-by-network basis.

Let’s look at the relative scale the FIM deal adds to the AdWords and AdSense side of the existing Google equation. Below, an evaluation of the larger FIM sites’ relative focus for which Google will be the exclusive contextual and search advertising partner:

  • MySpace. Alexa rank: 6. MySpace has a user base that skews young, of course. The focus is on social networking, user-generated content (text, pictures, and video), blogging, and dating. Google has a similar site named after its internal creator, Orkut, so Google is quite familiar with the network effect. Interestingly, Orkut has grown to an Alexa rank of 24, yet there seems to be no Google advertising on it. Perhaps as Google continues to experiment on MySpace, Orkut will start to display ads too.

  • IGN.com. Alexa rank: 183. IGN is a major online video game and entertainment site. The video game industry is huge, and though many of us think of gamers as people aged 7-16, there are huge numbers of credit-card-holding, mature gamers ready to buy what marketers sell.
  • Scout.com. Alexa rank: 970. Google’s press release mentions Scout, but FOXSports.com is a far larger FIM property, which, for some reason, isn’t mentioned as part of the deal. FoxSports is already in a deal with MSN. The plot thickens.
  • Rotten Tomatoes. Alexa rank: 658. People love movies and movie stars. Although IMDb is probably the top movie site, Rotten Tomatoes has millions of loyal review readers.
  • AskMen.com. Alexa rank: 786. This is a popular men’s lifestyle site.

In addition, there are a bunch of lower-ranked, niche-focused sites in the FIM network:

  • GameSpy: Alexa rank: 1,040

  • GameSpy Arcade: Alexa rank: 20,998
  • FilePlanet: Alexa rank: 2,336
  • Direct2Drive: Alexa rank: 13,994
  • TeamXbox: Alexa rank: 3,142
  • 3D Gamers: Alexa rank: 5,862
  • GameStats: Alexa rank: 4,161,678
  • CheatsCodesGuides: Alexa rank: 20,266
  • GamerMetrics: Alexa rank: 516,813

Meanwhile, the number of unaffiliated, high-traffic Web sites is dwindling as search engines sign exclusive deals to lock in eyeballs.

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