And what does the Google purchase of AdMob mean for publishers?

By Tom Limongello

I am really excited for Omar Hamoui, Jason Spero, Tony Nethercutt and the rest of the AdMob team on their acquisition by Google. 

I am also excited to hear that Google?s go-forward strategy includes investing in ad units. The Google-AdMob deal is a natural fit for mobile performance advertising to address the long tail, but there is a long cycle left before all types of advertisers are addressed on mobile, and the process of getting them excited and then engaged with mobile consumers has only just begun.

The Google-AdMob deal is a victory for consumers, in that more emphasis will be placed on mobile, and as such the consumer experience should improve as a result.

It is a step forward for advertisers, because performance and local advertisers will receive better targeting and reporting on mobile.

However, what this deal does not address are the premium publishers. 

AdMob is not the DoubleClick for mobile
BusinessWeek used a desktop analogy to describe the Google-AdMob deal that is beginning to stick, stating that AdMob is the DoubleClick for mobile.

It is an easy comparison in terms of the current size of the mobile advertising market, but it is very misleading in terms of what AdMob is, and what Google is buying.

There are also many people who worry that the Federal Communications Commission will step in and review this deal and potentially restrict it. So here is where the DoubleClick analogy really breaks down.

Google bought a performance ad network in AdMob. Yesterday, a WSJ blog ran the year-old video from Robert Scoble interviewing Omar Hamoui, CEO of AdMob, in which Omar explained that his differentiator from all other mobile ad networks was that AdMob?s model is completely self-service.

Google is the best self-service advertising technology on the Web and AdMob is the best self-service advertising technology for mobile.

So what is Google getting?
When Google acquired DoubleClick, it was a way for Google to gain publisher relationships.

However, AdMob does not own the premium publisher segment in the mobile market. AdMob has worked with some premium brands, but a large portion of its impressions and publishers come from a whole new breed of advertisers ? mobile application developers that used AdMob to promote and monetize their applications.

In mobile, many publishers are not yet selling advertising directly and, as a result, AdMob can be the biggest display network without having a premium model.

But in the end, Google is not buying publisher relationships or even the default publisher ad serving solution for mobile.

Google is buying engineering talent, vision in mobile, great iPhone interaction data and a self-service ad serving platform for mobile, with a particular focus on iPhone for Webkit and iPhone for in-application advertising.

Google?s focus will likely be to bring Google?s desktop advertisers more relevance on mobile by enabling better features for the segments that have not really hit yet ?travel, finance and direct response advertisers.

Whither premium publishers?
The premium publisher has not yet won on mobile. In fact, Google is losing credibility in its attempts to remain a partner or even a friend to publishers.

On the Day of Mobile we also heard that Rupert Murdoch threatened again to take his ball and go home, close off Google News access to WSJ.com content and forgo the 25 percent of traffic that Google brings to the site on a monthly basis.

In addition, many publishers who have yet to make money on mobile have decided to flee the mobile Web and only deliver native applications.

Conde Nast shut down its sites and now only runs applications, and may end up charging for all mobile content.

What we are seeing is that there is no DoubleClick for mobile yet, and there is no solution out there making enough money for publishers on mobile to make them happy participants in the industry.

Publishers have already to a large extent at least mobilized their content via the mobile Web or applications, but they are not selling mobile to the level that they could be.

Weather.com stated at Monday night?s Mobile Monday Silicon Valley that they have six people selling mobile and are dying to hire more. The site may have, with the exception of Yahoo, the largest publisher sales force exclusively selling mobile on the planet.

The DoubleClick of mobile will need to be a provider that is not mainly an ad network. It needs to be a technology platform that enables publishers to comfortably serve ads to mobile in such a way that they can differentiate direct sales from ad network-sold inventory.

In fact, DoubleClick Mobile is Google?s attempt to solve this problem for publishers. Unfortunately, it has not delivered the type of performance publishers need to successfully sell mobile to their advertisers.

If Google had really bought the DoubleClick for mobile that serves premium publishers? interests, then we would really only would have one Day of Mobile. Instead, I think it is time to spend the next 364 days figuring out how to let premium publishers become a part of the game.

Tom Limongello is senior director of business development at Crisp Wireless, New York. Reach him at