A Possible Business Model for Google News

An article today in the New York Times, Big Papers Find National Ads a Tough Sell, opens with the assertion that advertisers, inspired by the success of targeted advertising via services like Google’s AdSense, are starting to turn away from large national papers, and spending more on local or regional papers.

This started a train of thought for me. Why is this trend just “inspired by”? Why isn’t it “powered by?” Between Google News, Google Maps, and Google Local, Google might just have the right information to help advertisers place targeted ads in local newspapers. Where is there more interest in particular topics or products? What kinds of searches are most associated with particular ad click-throughs? What if newspapers, and not just web sites, could sign up for Google AdSense, mirroring Google’s collective intelligence into offline media? I’m sure the targeting wouldn’t be nearly as good, because it would be leveraging yesterday’s clickstream for insight rather than a current page view, but it could be a lot better than the “pin the tail on the donkey” game that print advertisers play today.

The whole idea of online/offline integration is very much on my mind, especially in the context of location (again, see Where 2.0). The aforementioned NYT article points out that one reason local papers are getting more of the advertising pie is their willingness to do ad inserts targeted by zip code. But why will advertisers stop there? As more and more devices are location-enabled, and as companies such as Google and Yahoo! know more and more about what people are looking for in particular locations and at particular times, there’s going to be more and more context for targeted advertising “offline”, because there really won’t be an “offline” anymore. To use David Weinberger’s felicitous phrase, we’re entering the age of the “Semantic Earth.”