Today in History: Google Buys Applied Semantics
This is the first in a series of articles that look at the anniversaries of key digital media developments in history.
Back on this date in 2003, Google was an “upstart search engine.” Applied Semantics was an obscure Santa Monica, Calif., company that made “software applications for the online advertising, domain name and enterprise information management markets.” Internet Advertising Report noted that Google would use Applied Semantics tech to “improve its sponsored links program.”
Google would go on to do that and then some. The acquisition, which was for $102 million in cash and stock, ended up being arguably Google’s most important. (You can make an argument for Android.) The reason is Google used Applied Semantics to improve its contextual targeting tech. With AdSense, Google broke out of search and onto the wider Web with contextual targeting technology that soon overwhelmed other players, such as Sprinks and IndustryBrains. It has been named one of the top 15 tech acquisitions of all time.
Pat Keane, president of Sharethrough and then a Google exec, sees its importance less in terms the tech — much of what Applied Semantics did was human-driven — but more in terms of an “important competitive move against Overture at the time.”
Josh Stylman, now an angel investor and then a managing director of search agency Reprise Media, calls it “one of the most important acquisitions in Internet history.” The reason is that Google, was at the time still privately held and thought more of as “the ValPak of the Internet,” as one major media buyer put it at the time.
It signaled a big shift from what I like to refer to as “run of swill” advertising towards something more relevant. While not perfect, Adsense proved that ads on general content pages didn’t have to be irrelevant to the user by matching them to text on the pages. Google combined two of it’s biggest assets, powerful information extraction methods and advertiser liquidity, in order to do that. It’s now commonplace, but at the time that was a big innovation and forced the rest of the market to follow suit. It especially put pressure on Overture (at the time Pepsi to Google’s Coke), which ultimately lagged.
Google went on, of course, to become much more than an “upstart search engine.” It became the most important advertising company in the world. Yahoo bought Overture three months. Within two years, AdSense was about 15 percent of Google’s revenue.
Image via Shutterstock
SXM Media’s Lizzie Widhelm on the challenges advertisers face with podcast ad buying
Lizzie Widhelm, svp of ad innovation and B2B marketing at SXM Media, discusses announcer versus host-read ads in podcasts, measurement challenges and audience targeting -- and where she sees the industry going in 2022.
Member ExclusiveDigiday+ Research: Alternate identifiers now figure in advertising deals for two thirds of publishers
Regardless of size, publishers are taking a careful approach to incorporating alternate identifiers into their businesses.
TikTok taps BuzzFeed to produce the first sponsored weekly live shows on the platform
BuzzFeed and TikTok will experiment with layering branded content into Live episodes on the platform, as well as how to establish predictable viewership for livestream videos.
SponsoredHow advertisers are shifting mindsets to succeed amid iOS 15 and other identity challenges
On top of the impending cookie deprecation, Apple’s recent iOS 15 changes are causing concern for many advertisers by affecting pixels, IP addresses and email addresses. While these upcoming changes may be concerning for many, shifting mindsets and getting away from a binary way of thinking with solutions being 100% contextual or 100% universal IDs […]
How 2021 taught Gallery Media to quickly adapt its TikTok playbook
Running both editorial and branded TikTok channels has given Gallery Media a clearer understanding of what audiences are willing to watch and engage with on the social media platform.
Here’s why Outbrain is buying Video Intelligence for $55 million
Outbrain and Taboola are using M&A to prove differentiation as public companies.