What's Google Up to Now?

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In case there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t get it, Google is an advertising company. Sure, it’s also a search engine, and its innovations in digitally searching books, pictures, video and, of course, Internet web pages, are unrivaled. But the money is in advertising and, as an intriguing deal announced yesterday confirms, Google is pursuing ad dollars wherever they may be, in this case, the airwaves.

Google said it’s buying dMarc Broadcasting, a Newport, Calif., company whose automated systems help connect advertisers with radio stations. Google said it paid $102 million up front for dMarc, an amount that could grow to more than $1 billion if certain targets are achieved. Google plans to integrate the newly acquired technology into its existing AdWords platform, which lets companies target their messages—which show up as Sponsored Links next to your search results—so that they appear only when Google users are looking up information on directly relevant topics or products. This service, too, is largely automated.

This isn’t the first time Google has explored advertising deals in traditional media. It has made some initial forays into print, bundling clients’ ads into a classified-advertising format, mainly for technology magazines. And Google’s recently announced “video marketplace,” which will let users purchase a broad range of third-party content—including NBA games, CBS programming and music videos—has prompted speculation that Google will eventually offer ad plays in this field as well. “Google is committed to exploring new ways to extend targeted, measurable advertising to other forms of media,” Tim Armstrong, Google’s vice president of advertising sales, said yesterday in a statement connected with the dMarc announcement.

Radio offers significant revenue opportunities for Google. According to ZenithOptimedia, a media services company, U.S. radio advertising last year was about $20 billion. That’s still higher than online advertising, although that sector is growing fast. Credit Suisse First Boston’s analysts are predicting a 32% rise in online advertising this year, to $16.6 billion.