Ballmer on YouTube Google “transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google”

This is a great interview by Business Week of Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer on Web 2.0 valuations and the competitive landscape up at the top of the heap, where Ballmer suggests only companies like MS, Google, Yahoo, and EBAY can even afford to think about doing the billion dollar deals. It’s a key point often lost on those who like to see valuations based more on financials and profits. Ballmer is noting that the competitive landscape can change these values.

But most interesting is this assertion:

The truth is what Google is doing now is transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google. So media companies around the world are all threatened by Google. Why? Because basically Google is telling you how much of your ad revenue you get to keep.They better get some competition. Us. Yahoo!. Somebody better break through or you can short all media stocks right now. As long as there are two, you can hold onto media stocks. Google understands that. And that’s one reason why they’re willing to lose money up front.

Fascinating. He’s saying that Google’s trying to *monopolize* the media market. I certainly think there is some truth to this though we are way past the good old days where barriers to entry could let a big, rich, clever company – let’s say Microsoft – really do a good monopoly play on things everybody needed to use with computers. Part of the Google advantage he’s leaving out is that they really do intend to share most of the revenues with the producers and they have become so good at monetizing that, Google could argue reasonably, you’ll make more sharing revenues with Google than building your own advertising networks. My experiences comparing adsense returns to “roll your own ads” are fairly extensive and I can say that it’s very hard to beat adsense returns by creating your own advertising streams *even excluding the potentially huge cost of a sales staff*.

I think the main exception to Adsense as the best choice is what we see at super targeted niche sites like where they can charge about 10k monthly for a modest sized graphical advertisment.    Battelle’s Federated Media is hoping to bring this targeting advantage to a broader network of sites but I remain guarded in my optimism that Google’s highly automated and calibrated approaches won’t do a better job than humans do in most advertising spaces.

So, I think Ballmer’s right that competition will help publishers, but Yahoo and MSN sure better strap on the thinking caps and get their contextual advertising networks working much better than they currently work at providing revenue to all of us hard working internet small time publishing people out here.

Also, and this advice to MS and Yahoo is free and will knock Google out of the driver’s seat in a few months:  Launch your contextual ad networks with a 100% revenue share as an incentive for publishers to switch over.    At 43% of Google’s revenue Adsense is a huge factor at Google.

Google may not be evil, but their advertisers often are. Facilitators of illegal ads should be held accountable

Although I think Google really tries to follow the “don’t be evil” mantra I think it now rings fairly hollow (ha – especially if it’s ringing up a ringtone ad scam at Google Adwords).

The problems are click fraud and downright illegal advertising which is running rampant all over the internet. This is a great set of PPC fraud advertising examples displayed at Google from a Harvard Law researcher, a proverbial drop in the online bucket of fraud.

Google, as the 800 pound gorilla, is the major beneficiary but this is an area that is simply ripe for legislation to prevent the plethora of PPC fraud schemes, ringtone scams, false advertising, and many, many more from polluting the online advertising space.

Why is this such fertile ground? It’s the new and fascinating combination of young users, young advertisers, young and old scammers, anonymity, global reach, and more that make this a complex and growing problem. Google et al are taking a “let the buyer beware” approach which is both evil and ignores the fact that many of the buyers are kids who wouldn’t know a scam from a treasure trove.

Ironically the solution to the scam ads is very simple. One new Law: If you run an advertisement you are responsible for any refunds in the event of a dispute with the advertiser. Make the publisher deal with their friend the advertiser who they are implicitly endorsing by showing the ad. This would clean it up very fast.

PPC fraud solution is not as easy, though I’d consider this:

1) Have teams of objective ombudsman researchers evaluate the fraud component at the different search engines.

2) Engines must refund to each account this average fraud component.

This incentifies the SE’s finding out and killing off the fraudulent clicks quickly, rather than the current lackluster efforts to root out the problems.