Goog-411 Gathering data for gPhone’s Targeted Ads?

Could Bill Slawski’s reporting on a new Google patent provide answers to many of the questions about Goog-411?

I have been curious about the recent Goog-411’s recent billboard campaign and the unusual distribution of the billboards. The boards have been reported in very limited geographic areas around San Francisco and Western New York with showings in settings both very rural and very urban. The ValleyWag had speculated that the billboard experiment was a test for a billboard ad distribution system. That seemed unlikely.

Bill Slawski’s recent article: Second Thoughts on a GPhone: Privacy and Targeted Ads offers specifics on a Google patent that allows for much more interesting speculation about the role of the Goog-411 billboards and Goog-411 itself.

Bill details a patent the describes the collection of caller data that would allow for delivery of targeted mobile ads:

Numbers dialed might be used to look up related information, such as:

  • Geographic locations of the called numbers
  • Names of persons called
  • Names of businesses called
  • Names of organizations called
  • Types of business called
  • Types of organizations called

The above are all things that Goog-411 can and probably does track. He goes on to describe how the patent envisions that this information could be expanded to develop a profile for business types, product types that a caller was looking for as well as a caller profile that inferred ethnicity, economic class, interests and likes. The system could even track post call connection data:

As an example of using such key presses, instead of simply noting that the user called a local theater, by analyzing the voice prompts (which might have been previously crawled (e.g., a list of numbers of voice message systems could be called and crawled by entering numbers) and analyzed (e.g., using speech recognition for example)) and responsive key press responses, it might be learned that the user was interested in a specific movie (”Finding Nemo” versus “The Matrix”), not just that they called a movie theater.

This could result in ads being served related to that specific movie, or based on the genre of the movie (e.g., children’s movies versus action and science fiction movies).

Such a system may require a device that would call dialed numbers (that were followed with further dialed digits), and utilizing speech recognition technology, learn which terms were associated with each of the possible choices.(bold is mine as this is just what Goog-411 does)

Which brings us back to some questions about Goog-411 and its ad campaign:

•Why roll out Goog-411 for free?

•Why have such a limited roll out of billboards?

•Why are these billboards in Limestone, Olean, Buffalo, NY & Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, Ca.?

•When will it be monetized and how?

Bill’s patent offers several interesting clues to these questions. For ad delivery on both the ever mythic gPhone and Goog-411 to really work, it needs both volume and relevancy. Relevancy can best be achieved by sampling a broad spectrum of users, users that come from a broad range of geographic, ethnic and economic status.

The billboards certainly are distributed in a way that data collected from responses to the ad would reflect many purchaser architypes and interests that Google seems to be looking for in their patent.

What better way to develop this data for the gPhone (or any mobile ad delivery system) than using Goog-411?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Goog-411 Gathering data for gPhone's Targeted Ads? by

4 thoughts on “Goog-411 Gathering data for gPhone’s Targeted Ads?”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Nice tie of the patent application in to Goog-411.

    I’m not completely certain that Google needs to have a Google Phone to offer free mobile phone service in return for letting Google collect this kind of information, and displaying targeted ads, but it seems like it could be the easiest way for them to offer such a package.

    The Goog-411 approach does seem like a great way to start collecting information, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I’m looking forward to seeing where this all leads.

  2. Mike: Were you aware of this study: It is an anonymous study of 1 million queries off of phones and pda’s by a google staffer and grad student.

    top 5 categories of searches

    >25% Adult content
    >10% Entertainment
    >4% Internet/telecom
    >4% Lifestyle/online communities
    >4% Local
    >45% Other topics.

    Isn’t that outrageous? Instead of working to maximize my local business site for a small screen and a maps description of my business for access to travelors….I should be working to get the most visual effect for small screen porn.


  3. Maybe we should call it the nubile web instead of the mobile web?

    Hard to imagine 320×200 B&W being very erotic isn’t it?….Not sure exactly what would show up in that much space…But hey, if the sex industry can drive desktop technology it has the power to drive mobile technology as well…no wonder Apple went full color and more pixels…

    The study was done in 2006 with WAP browsers, I believe. I think that ultimately things like Google Maps & Safari with the iPhone will drive the widespread adoption of the mobile internet and that will obviate the need for you to optimize your site around body parts. 🙂

  4. Like you, I was surprised that adult usage would be so popular on such a small screen. That probably says more about overall web usage than anything specific about using the web on mobile.

    I guess I’d suggest a follow up study comparing that 25% on mobile to the percentage off of desktops and laptops, and comparing the other usage percentages to what are usage norms on desktops and laptops.

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