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Google buys into digital radio ads

Henry, can you hear me?

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Advertising giant Google has paid $106m for dMarc, which provides media-buying technology for digital radio. dMarc also provides the technology infrastructure for "station automation" - enabling the unmanned "ghost" stations so beloved by ClearChannel, and loathed by everyone else. dMarc claims to have 4,600 stations under its umbrella.

Google says it will integrate dMarc's digital advertising platform into its AdWords program.

A new medium for the Google monster? Disgraced dotcom analyst Henry Blodget, now reborn as a blogger, seems to think so.

"Swallow radio and all other media... Create a combined platform for researching, designing, and managing campaigns across all media, from a single interface," he burbles on John Battelle's weblog.

Not so fast, Henry.

As Google itself points out, the integration of dMarc's digital ad distribution is about "creating a new radio ad distribution channel for Google advertisers."

Digital radio is simply an MPEG stream, and contextualizing digital streams, and injecting advertisements into them is Google's core competency - and not some untethered spacewalk into the unknown. And while creative agencies are certainly looking at the growth of paid web search with some trepidation, Google has shown no inclination to get very "creative" itself. It's as much a recognition that the phenomenal growth in paid web classified advertising can't, as Google has itself long predicted, be sustained.

It's simply looking to the future - a not to near future. Digital radio was launched in the UK in 1997, but it was only this Christmas that it reached the wider-buying public. It's still more expensive and cumbersome than FM, and usually sounds worse.

But Google faces such an infantile press these days, that even when its being transparent - and it couldn't be more clear about its intentions than the accompanying release today - Google watchers prefer to believe a myth.

Ironically, dMarc also launched AdForce, a web-advertising broker which soared before crashing in the wake of the dotcom downturn.®

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