Among all the clamor for rich media, lead gen, video on demand, apps and the like, the engine that drives the digital economy is – and for the foreseeable future will continue to be – paid search. It’s not even close.
Paid search accounted for 48% of all U.S. internet ad spending in 2010, according to Ad Age – some $12.4 billion. The next closest was banner ads clocking in at $5.9 billion.
And Citigroup says online advertising will continue to grow this year – they are estimating 21% growth when 2011 concludes and 17% growth in 2012. The bulk of that growth will come from paid search.
But despite its standing as the digital platform advertising king, search is a comparative pauper when it comes to innovation. Yes, much of that is because text is the canvas paid search has to work with, not to mention the nature of the search engine platform – but if search is the type of advertising consumers actually want to engage with – where is the innovation? Maybe it is because search is not really “advertising” at all, but problem solving. But if search is driving the digital economy there are ample opportunities for game-changing innovation. It requires, however, that innovators be able to look at it very differently as a platform.
If they are going to come up with such innovation, however, they had better hurry up. A little interface known as Siri – iPhone’s voice activated assistant – poses what many feel is an existential threat to search. Why? The very essence of what paid search is based on – keywords – is not relevant to Siri. There are no keywords to bid on. It’s just a question of ask, and you will receive an answer. And that’s all the more reason that those involved in search are best served by starting to seek some hard-core innovation – sooner rather than later.
Dean DeBiase is the Chairman and CEO of entertainment.com, the leading provider of the most recognized and purchased consumer discount, promotion and coupon service. He is known as an expansion phase CEO with a track record scaling emerging growth companies and embedding entrepreneurial-grade talent into multinational corporations. He’s a co-author of the best-selling The Big Moo.