Google announced a major update to its mobile search results pages today. Whenever your query brings up a video, Google will now show you a silent six-second clip to help you decide if it’s actually a video you want to see.
This will work for the vast majority of videos on the web today — including, but not limited to, YouTube. Indeed, as Emily Moxley, Google’s director of product management for this project, told me, any video on the web is eligible for inclusion, though Google may not have a preview for some of the newest videos available yet because it takes the servers a bit of time to build the previews.
Even though video is getting more and more popular, it’s no secret that it’s not always the most convenient way to get information. A thumbnail isn’t going to give you a lot of information about what the actual video is going to look like, after all (and video producers have gotten pretty smart about which thumbnails will generate the most clicks…).
Ideally, Google’s new feature will remove at least some of this ambiguity so you know that you won’t be wasting time on some boring gongoozling video when you’re looking for the real thing. Google’s canonical example involves looking for salsa dancing videos. Some videos may simply show you professionals at work, while others will actually teach you the steps.
Unsurprisingly, Google decided to use some of its machine learning smarts to enable this feature. That’s because the first six seconds of any given video aren’t usually the most representative ones. So Google’s algorithm actually analyzes the whole video and then decides which six-second clip to pick. While the team didn’t want to delve into the details of how this algorithm decides what to show, Google product manager Prashant Baheti told me that the algorithm looks at what’s in the different scenes in a video, where those scenes start and end, and which scenes best represent the video.
What the algorithm doesn’t do, though, is look at your query. Unlike the previously launched Featured Snippet, which directly links you to the relevant answer to one of your questions in a video, the snippets are always the same. Moxley noted that this is something the company is looking at, though.
It’s worth noting that these previews do not feature any ads and by default, they will only play when you are using a WiFi connection. If you want, you can enable video previews on mobile networks, too, or even completely opt out of them in the settings for both the Google app and Google Chrome for Android.
For now, this feature is only available on mobile, both through the Google app and in Chrome. It’s not available on the desktop yet. A Google spokesperson argued that this is because the company now focuses on its mobile users, though I can’t think of any major limitation of the desktop platform that would prevent the company from rolling this out across all platforms.
Google’s Chrome browser will soon come with preinstalled technology that will block the most annoying ads currently marring the web experience, the company confirmed on Thursday.
Publishers will be able to understand how they will be affected through a tool Google is dubbing “The Ad Experience Report.” It will basically score a publisher’s site and inform them which of their ads are “annoying experiences.”
At the same time, Chrome will give publishers the option to force a choice on people running their own ad blocking software: whitelist the site so its non-annoying ads can display or pay a small fee to access the content ad-free.
The moves, which had been anticipated since word got out in April but hadn’t been previously confirmed by Google, will impact the entire advertising ecosystem because Chrome is the most popular web browser for both desktop and mobile.
“We’ve all known for a while that the ad experience is a real problem, and that it’s confused and angered users,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior VP of ads and commerce at Google, told Ad Age. “We realized solutions like ad blockers punish everybody, including publishers who develop great content and are thoughtful about the ad experience they put on their site.”
Google isn’t calling its technology an ad blocker, instead classifying it as a “filter” that removes the ads that consumers hate most. These include popups, ads that flash quickly, change colors or force people to wait 10 seconds before accessing content on a publisher’s page.
The effort to install such software on Chrome is a result of work by the Coalition for Better Ads, whose members include Google, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, WPP’s GroupM, Facebook, Thomson Reuters, The Washington Post as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Association of National Advertisers.
In an effort to develop a Better Ads Standard and slow the spread of ad-blocking software, the Coalition set out to determine which ad formats were most at fault. It paid some 25,000 study participants in the U.S. and Europe to rate 104 different ad experiences on desktop and mobile. Chrome’s “filter” is informed partly by the results.
The industry is particularly eager to keep ad blocking from taking off on mobile devices, where it has a 1% adoption rate, the way it already has on desktop computers, where the figure is 18%, according to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report.
“We think getting ads right is really, really important to the future for the internet. We love the sources of information that makes the internet great,” Ramaswamy said. “What’s scary is ad blocking has been a big problem on desktop and has been a big problem for the last few years.”
“Hopefully leading to a much better, much stable ecosystem for everybody,” he added. “We are very excited about what we’re announcing and doing here.”
The option for publishers to charge for ad-free access is called Funding Choices.
“We want to provide consumers with choice,” Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, told Ad Age. “The publisher will get compensated either way and it will help explain to the consumer the value of advertising.”
Users who opt to shell out to avoid ads will pay with their Google Play account, Spencer said.
Google said it expects to roll out the features in early 2018.
With perhaps its boldest bet yet, YouTube is going directly after traditional television advertising dollars with 40 new programs exclusively for the platform. And advertisers appear to be coming back to the fold after brand-safety concerns rocked YouTube several weeks ago.
Tonight, at the digital giant’s BrandCast event in New York, YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl announced that celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Hart, Ryan Seacrest and Demi Lovato are creating shows. The big pitch to marketers came toward the end of the first week of the Digital Content NewFronts.
Here’s a positive spin on eMarketer’s recent report: Digital advertising on mobile will only become easier for marketers, as Google will control search and Facebook will control display.
But for those who enjoy a darker outlook, the duopoly that is Google and Facebook isn’t going anywhere soon, and in fact, will continue to grow: This year, the two will control 57% of all mobile advertising. Come 2019, that number will increase to 60%, eMarketer said.
That’s excellent news for Google and Facebook, as the majority of digital ad dollars are flowing toward mobile.
And each is laying claim to their turf.
In 2017, for example, Google will control a whopping 77.8% market share of the search ad business, or $28.5 billion in revenue, eMarketer said. That number will grow further by 2019 to 80%, or $36.6 billion in revenue.
“Google’s dominance in search, especially mobile search, is largely coming from the growing tendency of consumers to turn to their smartphones to look up everything from the details of a product to directions,” Monica Peart, eMarketer forecasting analyst, said in a statement. “Google and mobile search as a whole will continue to benefit from this behavioral shift.”
As Google maintains its grasp on search, Facebook is nibbling away display market share from competitors like Google, Yahoo and Twitter. According to eMarketer, Facebook’s U.S. display business will jump 32.1% to $16.33 billion, and will capture 39% of the U.S. display market.
Those numbers will increase come 2019, as Facebook will control 43.7% market share, or $23.9 billion in revenue, eMarketer said.
Helping fuel Facebook’s display push is Instagram, which will account for 20% of its parent’s mobile ad revenue this year, up from 15% last year, eMarketer said. Although Google’s display business will capture $5.2 billion in 2017, its market share will drop to 12.5%, down from 13.8% from the year earlier, eMarketer said.
“Facebook’s users are increasingly captivated by videos on the platform — not just on Facebook but on Instagram as well,” Ms. Peart said. “Video, both live and recorded, is a key driver of growing user engagement and advertiser enthusiasm.”
And for those expecting Snapchat to take on Google and Facebook, eMarketer said the company will only account for 1.3% of the mobile ad market in 2017. That number will eventually increase three years later to 2.7%, eMarketer said.
Google said it blocked 1.7 billion “bad ads” in 2016, or more than double what it did the previous year.
Ads that are misleading, inappropriate, promote misleading products or trick users into installing harmful software are generally deemed “bad,” Google said. The company also blacklisted ads that were once considered acceptable in 2015.
Payday loans that carry an annual interest rate higher than 36%, for example, were banned from appearing as Google search ads last year. The company was applauded for its move, as the measure was expected to cost Google millions in revenue. Yet digital loan sharks quickly adapted to Google’s newfound rule, as many loan companies now offer payday loans with an APR as high as 35.99%.
That means a $5,000 loan with an APR of 35.99% would cost a borrower $13,745 over a seven-year span, which is a common time allotment offered by the predatory loan companies Google is trying to blacklist.
Still, Google said it blocked 5 million payday loan advertisements from appearing in 2016. Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, said it takes time for the company to adapt to new schemes.
Meanwhile, the company said the biggest trend to come out of 2016 was the rise of “tabloid cloakers,” a new type of ad that tries to game Google’s system by pretending to be news. One example the company shared was about an ad showing Ellen DeGeneres and aliens. However, consumers who click on ads like this are taken to a site selling weight loss products, for example.
Google said it suspended 1,300 accounts for tabloid cloaking last year. In one sweep, the company took down 22 accounts that were responsible for displaying 20 million cloaker ads over a one-week period.
The company added that it also removed 112 million ads that aim to deceive users into downloading apps or malware, six times more than what it did in 2015. The company said it removed 68 million ads for healthcare violations in 2016, up from 12.5 million in 2015. Another 17 million ads were removed for promoting illegal gambling, Google said.
About 900,000 ads were disabled for containing malware. And an additional 6,000 accounts were suspended for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods, the company said. From November to December, Google said it reviewed 550 sites that were suspected of misrepresenting content or were impersonating as news organizations like CNN. Of those, Google took action against 340 of them for violating its policies. An additional 200 publishers were also permanently banned, Google said.