Syndicating content across the Google Content Network is not news. Media Rights Capital and others have been experimenting with the idea for more than a year. We ran a similar program with Motorola and the Burg across our network more than a year ago. Crackle has been pushing content paired with ads through social nets like Hi5 for a while. What makes this different is "Seth power" and the presumably large ad deals that will bring the ad units-cum-content players to far more sites and to far more viewers across the Google network. The move reflects some significant changes that are being played out in the online ad world and are worth a closer look.
Advertisers and content owners will look to turn standard 300 by 250 ad units into expandable video experiences. Old ad real estate becomes a window into a new rich-media world. Environments (sites, games, apps, etc.) that can deliver consumers into these experiences efficiently will be worth more (see my previous post). Page-based inventory is going to find new demand as a starting point for short media and video experiences -- and with it, brand advertising.
We can learn a lot about content's role in ad effectiveness through these innovations. Think about this deal in particular. Rather than using the Google network as display inventory to deliver the ad experience, Seth's short two-minute content is used as a carrier for advertising. This probably makes sense to some brands, particularly if Seth is going to make the ad or integrate the brand into his content. But with a lot of mouths at the trough -- the publisher, Google, MRC and Seth -- impressions will be way, way more expensive. Remember, at best one user in 20 will click to watch the content, which turns that inventory into ad inventory. The math gets challenging.
Google already maintains massive real estate positions across with net with AdSense and widgets and display inventory will fortify the network. This is an important experiment. A robust content distribution layer would make AdSense even more formidable and it will get harder to out-monetize Google in an effort to access distribution.