Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google's Victory Dance: Check Out Our Go-Go Numbers!

After showing off financial numbers that blew away Wall Street’s earnings estimates, what could Google do for an encore? Trot out even more numbers, via a tantalizing but not-that-revealing striptease.

Here are the three data points that the search giant showed off during its earnings call this afternoon. All of them “begin with the letter B,” as product SVP Google Jonathan Rosenberg noted, and all of them come with caveats:

  • $2.5 billion: Non-text display ad revenue run rate. That number includes ads from its DoubleClick unit as well as YouTube.
  • 2 billion: YouTube monetized views per week.
  • $1 billion: Mobile annualized revenue run rate.

All of those seem big–and they are! But they’re also deliberately fuzzy enough that it’s hard to tell exactly what they mean.

For instance: As Henry Blodget notes, those display-ad dollars are gross revenue, which means that Google only keeps a portion of them. And while that two billion YouTube views number is up from a billion a year ago, it’s proportionally the same: A year ago YouTube said it was monetizing a billion views a week while serving up a billion views a day; now the video site says two billion views a week and two billion a day.

Meanwhile Google officials, who routinely announce that YouTube is close to profitability, refused to tell analysts whether YouTube is actually profitable.

No matter! The point of b-as-in-big numbers was to impress Wall Street with Google’s ability to create new revenue streams beyond its core search ads. And the data, along with the company’s impressive Q3 performance, seems to have worked: Shares are up nine percent in after-hours trading.



There’s the beat Wall Street was looking for. Google reports earnings of $7.67 a share and net revenues of $5.48 billion. The consensus was for $6.67 and $5.25 billion. GAAP EPS was $6.72.

Google (GOOG) has been plowing money into capital expenditures and people–it now has 23,300 employees, up from 21,800  months ago, a 6.8 percent increase–but it has been able to keep operating income quite healthy, anyway. Adjusted operating income was $2.93 billion, well above the $2.77 billion consensus.

GOOG is up considerably, now seven percent, in after-hours trading. Robot cars for all!

You can listen to (and watch) Google’s 4:30 pm ET earnings call by clicking on this YouTube link. I’ll add updates from the earnings call occasionally starting here:

As in recent quarters, CEO Eric Schmidt is sitting this one out.

CFO Patrick Pichette starts off. Aha! Teases that “we may have” Schmidt available for the first 30 minutes of Q&A before he gets on a GooglePlane.

300 of those new 1,500 employees came from acquisitions.

Discussion of “long-term” growth–“the next 5 to 10 years.” “Simply put, we’re on this growth agenda at full throttle…investing heavily in people and in product.”

There’s a “war for talent” in our industry, which is “out of synch” with the broader economy. Currently exploring how to attract and retain people. Winners and losers determined by this battle.

Re: Product investment, which you’ll hear about from product SVP Jonathan Rosenberg. He’s going to tell you about some numbers, but don’t expect to hear an update on these–they’re merely “proof points” about Google’s success.

Here’s Rosenberg, teasing new previously unreleased numbers.

Here they come. Starting with search and Google Instant:

Impact has been “very minimal” on revenue and “quite expensive” from a resource perspective.

But! “We launched it because we could.”

As search gets better, ads have to keep pace. Great momentum with AdWords.

New ad formats appear on more than 10 percent of query. Some formats show clickthrough rates as much as 10 percent on some, up 30 percent in others.

Big numbers, “which all begin with the letter B.”

$2.5 billion: Non-text display ad revenue run rate. That includes DoubleClick, YouTube.

2 billion: YouTube monetized views per week

$1 billion: Mobile annualized run rate

Mobile search queries up 5 times in the last few years.

Back to Pichette, to tamp down numbers.

In some cases, there is overlap with numbers. For instance, with AdMob, numbers counted in both display and mobile.

Time for Q&A, Schmidt is now on the line.

Schmidt says query growth is pushing click growth, and so are new ad formats. Ads are more compelling, etc.

Pichette notes that AdX numbers are included in the $2.5B display total.

Q: Please talk about YouTube. Of the two billion monetized views, what percent is that of total views? And are you profitable yet?

Pichette: Re: Profitability, “We have not made any comments on it.” [Except of course when they do, over and over.]

Rosenberg: Note that we’ve said we do two billion views per day–that will give you context.

Sorry, missed a Q.

Schmidt says growth of Android is “well past what I had ever hoped for.”

90,000 apps on Android “and growing very fast.”

Question about “proprietary benefits” of Android.

Schmidt: Android is the “largest single platform play” in mobile today.

We’re growing it by giving software away. How does that help us? Well, for starters, people who use Android search two times more than anyone else. Obvious benefit for us there, and search is more lucrative for us there as well, and that makes Android “hugely profitable.”

And we can add other value-added services to Android, but that’s not the focus right now.

Questions on cost: Cost per employee has declined. Can you continue that? And on mobile, will you stay with the “indirect monetization” Android strategy?

Pichette: Wouldn’t read anything into the cost-per-employee numbers. But we’re continuing to be frugal and generous.

Ad boss Nikesh Arora: We’re excited about the revenue model we have. We have no reason to change the model we have with Android.

Schmidt: And display will become a very big component of mobile.

Q: On display, can you break out YouTube and AdX numbers? And what do you think of competitive Android marketplaces?

Pichette: No breakout of numbers. [Duh.]

Schmidt: Goal of the app store is to make money for developers. Not a revenue goal for Google. More stores are a “win for everybody.”

Question about CPC on mobile devices. Rosenberg: They’re lower than desktop, because there aren’t many practical ways to consumate transaction. But on the iPad, activity looks a little bit more like it does on a PC, because there’s more room to enter credit card numbers, etc.

Q: Please discuss cannibalization between smartphone and PC–are iPad and tablet searches incremental or cannibalization? And can you give us color on international 26 percent growth?

Rosenberg: We don’t see cannibalization. We see mobile as complimentary to desktop. Different use patterns–mobile search is on weekends, during lunchtime, etc.

Arora: Generally, trend positive across the board. U.K. a bit weaker, but some of that is FX. Southern Europe way better than Northern. Asian markets robust.

Q: Competitors make $300 profit per handset sold over the lifetime of a device.You’re approaching this with a different model, but do you think that’s an upper limit on that number?

Schmidt: Our model is that handset makers and manufacturers make a lot of money from the phone, and we make money from advertising. So can’t compare the two, and premature for us to guess what we can do. “It should be highly lucrative” and a “very very strong revenue stream compared to a PC.”

Q: On social search. How do you “capture the signal” without access to the data feeds, as you have with Twitter.

Schmidt: “There are some ways we can do that” now, and we’re working on new ways.

Sorry, stepped out. Back now.

Q: TAC rate seems to be lowest since IPO. Sustainable? Growth has been driven by volume, not price. Sustainable, and/or will pricing increase going forward?

Pichette: MySpace deal is now over. That saved us a bunch of money. And mix of our partners will effect our TAC. That’s about it.

Rosenberg: Can’t answer volume/price question without “being forward-looking.” [Heh]

Q: Microsoft/Facebook deal was exclusive. But do you think you’ll see exclusive data deals? And what about Groupon, etc.? Can you compete there?

A: Value of exclusive data is “swamped” by “vastness” of the Web. So no concern there.

Schmidt: Always a concern that large chunks of data are not accessible to search engines….long pause… up to the content owner to decide how much to expose. We believe the world is better off if more information is searchable. “We fundamentally believe that.”

Rosenberg: Daily deals are very exciting. “A lot of small companies doing a fabulous job there.” We participate a little bit via sitelinks. But no question “that’s a very exciting and hot space.”

Q: When will Google Instant be on the BlackBerry or iPhone? What’s Android activation rate? And why not let advertisers bid directly on mobile inventory?

Rosenberg: Instant availability on other platforms “relatively soon”–probably this fall.

Not updating Android activation numbers.

Q: Given that non-core search is more material, do you think you’ll keep allocating resources with your 70-10-10 model? And when do you anticipate mobile overtaking desktop?

Schmidt: On mobile vs. display: Even if we knew I don’t think we’d talk about it.

On core vs. emergent: We talk about this all the time. Depends. Android is very small, and growing fast, so they get all the resources they need. We end up still at 70-10-10, but that’s not really a formula for us.

Pichette: What really matters the most to us is as Eric says, “When you see a hockey stick, pour gasoline on that fire.”

Q: Big-picture data question: What does Google think about leveraging user data to better target ads (see Facebook, Yahoo, etc.)–particularly with search data and display?

Schmidt: “We have a pretty strong opinion that we’re not going to do very much of it.” We’re intensely serious about privacy.

So “we’re not going to do the kinds of things that we could do with it… without your explicit permission. And in many cases we probably won’t do it forever.”

A question on display, which I’ve missed but will have to return to.

Pichette wraps things up. Today’s data points “are not about giving you information” for coming quarters, but to give you confidence that we’re building long-term businesses.

Call ends.

Mark Mahaney’s cheat sheet will help you decipher the numbers:

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work