An interesting patent was granted to Google on November 8, titled “Customization of Content and Advertisements in Publications.”
A number of blogs picked it up and speculated that Google may soon begin to offer users the ability to create customized, printed magazines from Internet content. And print ads included in the magazine would be customized, too.
The speculation doesn’t appear to be far off. The patent, which was filed in May, 2006, points out the flaws in existing print magazines:
Consumers may purchase a variety of publications in various forms, e.g., print form (e.g., newspapers, magazines, books, etc.), electronic form (e.g., electronic newspapers, electronic books (“e-Books”), electronic magazines, etc.), etc. The publishers define the content of such publications, and advertisers define which advertisements (ads) may be seen in the publications. Since consumers have no control over publication content or advertisements, they may purchase a publication that contains at least some content and advertisements that may be of no interest to them.
Publishers often lack insight into the profiles of consumers who purchase their publications, and, accordingly, miss out on subscription and advertisement revenue due to a lack of personalized content and advertisements. Likewise, consumer targeting for advertisers is limited, and there is virtually no standardization for ad sizes (e.g., an ad that is supposed to be a full page may need to be reduced in size to fit within a publication). Accordingly, advertisers sometimes purchase sub-optimal or worthless ad space in an attempt to reach their target markets. Advertisers also have difficulty identifying new prospective market segments to target because they have limited insight into the desires and reactions of consumers.
The solution, Google says, is to give users the ability to search and browse their own content, and receive an electronic or hard copy version of the final product. And that final product will include advertisements highly relevant to the user.
Google also possibly sees the use of kiosks to create and print these documents:
…the customer interface documents may be provided via a kiosk. For example, kiosks containing the customer interface documents may be provided in stores (e.g., Target, supermarkets, retail stores, etc.) in a similar way as picture kiosks are currently provided in such stores.
Of course, this is just a patent at this stage, and Google’s history when dabbling with print stuff is terrible. It could be years, if ever, before Google tries to productize this. But I also wonder how effective this patent would be if established magazines tried to allow users to customize content in a similar way – Google could step in and claim infringement. Their hope, of course, would be to license the patent and supply all the advertisements.
Thanks for the tip, Patrick.