Monday, 9 September 2013

Why Google's Play Store will eventually trump the App Store - Ads

A lot has been written this past year about how Android's Google Play store is catching up to the App store.  Certainly, a lot of the numbers seem to bolster this claim.  The Google play store boasts in excess of 1 million apps to date which is slightly ahead or an par with Apple (though the number of tablet based apps is far less than IOS and continues to present a challenge).  In addition, Play has launched music, movies, books, magazines across a number of major markets in the past year and matched IOS in games with the launch of its Play games service (though no numbers have been disclosed to give us an idea of how many games have integrated the service nor the current number of users).  More importantly, Google has been smart to capitalize on its digital content platform beyond simply consumer facing content.  At Google IO they announced the launch of Google Play for Education which will allow educators and IT administrators to essentially use a version of the play store built for education to provision students using Android tablets with apps, books and other materials.  More recently they also released Textbooks to allows students to buy their textbooks online (the backs and shoulders of many will be thankful)

But I believe more is yet to come...

The biggest challenge for content owners / creators continues to be discovery.   Though services like Play Games will help developers find new ways to promote their content to a more targeted audience while search and better merchandising help users find new content, the truth remains that as more content becomes available it necessarily becomes more and more challenging for consumers to find what they want.  Let me use my own situation this morning as an example.

Here's a screenshot of what I saw today on the home page of Apps when I opened Play on my laptop.

So what's wrong with this picture?  Well for starters, I don't really give much of a damn about Fantasy Football and don't, no matter how many companies they buy, ever use Yahoo! services so right off the batt 1/4th of the recommended list doesn't really interest to me.  Last I checked I also haven't been in school for about 13 years so the entire row of "Back to School" apps goes down the drain as far as I'm concerned.  Scrolling down the page I was also presented with a "Keep in Touch" section which, though cool, presented 4 apps I had already installed.  I'm not sure the value of reminding me about stuff I already have to be honest but understand the challenges around merchandising content for a mass market audience.

The problem here: relevance and lack of customization.  Luckily, Google has both the tools and brains to fix this and in my opinion (yes, obviously I'm biased) in a better way than Apple.

When I was a GetJar, our whole reason for being was to offer developers the chance to better reach consumers by allowing them to bid for targeted placement across our app store.  Developers could bid for placement to get heightened visibility and depending on their bid and the relevance of the ad and level of interest they would get featured in premium placements across the store which helped drive downloads of their apps (sounds familiar?)

So it would seem that Google could easily solve the discovery problem in part by introducing an Adwords style system directly into Google play. Introducing ads into Google play would:

1.  Enable developers to have some control over the effectiveness of their ad dollars by bidding for placement directly where consumers happen to be.
2.  Provide a level playing field where developers would compete / bid against each other for placement.  Successful placement would depend not just on the level of the bid but also on relevance and also consumer interest (as measured by the click through rate the developers app has received to date).
3.  Better monetize the play store with a product (ads) which is far more profitable for Google than content. (I can see Google's CFO +Patrick Pichette smiling already)
4.  Provide Google play with a unique differentiator against the Apple App store by giving developers much more control over their ability to market their content to consumers
5.  Provide Google's ad sales team with a unique, highly differentiated product targeting a highly prized audience of Android users (minus those in China of course...(sigh)).  +Jason Spero rejoice!

So it would seem like a no brainer coming from the company that pioneered online ads that this would solve a lot of problems both for consumers, developers and the folks on the Play team.  So when will we see ads in Google play?  

who knows...but surely the obviousness of the opportunity hasn't been lost of the folks in Mountain View.  Stay tuned ;)