Google’s mobile minefield
When the media landscape changes, there are inevitably casualties. The once mighty print publishers have learnt that lesson to their cost as they struggle to manage the transition from print pounds to digital pennies.
The media landscape is changing once more and the existing players are heading for a shake up. As we head from a digital landscape dominated by PCs to one controlled by mobile, the company with the most to lose is Google.
Google may be massive in online search – excluding China it has around 90% of the market and in Europe (excluding Russia) the figure is closer to 98%– but has a much less dominant position in smartphones and tablets.
The company’s share of mobile search in the UK and US comes to 20% in many categories, across Europe the figure is closer to 15% and globally it’s probably at just 10%.
The mobile landscape is still forming and it’s possible that Google will once again come out on top. But to do so will require its new competitors to make mistakes of the same order as those that Microsoft and Yahoo.
The chances of that happening – and that Google will once again make all the right decisions – seem small. Lightening rarely strikes twice.
There are also structural reasons why it will ultimately struggle to achieve the same level of dominance on mobile as it has on PCs.
While many PCs use Google as their home page, the route to the web via mobile is more complex, controlled by networks or by handset manufacturers and consumer usage that is dominated by links sent via social networks.
In contrast to the print publishers, many of whom buried their heads in the sand, Google is being proactive about this area of potential weakness.
It’s meeting with agencies and offering to form partnerships with client brands that are happy to invest significantly. Brands need to decide if they are going to be part of the Google camp or if they want to link with its mobile rivals.
Those that back the winners will benefit from long-term value and access to new opportunities.