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Friday, June 22, 2012 - 18:24 - Kevin Garber @ke_ga

Interview ABC Radio: Happy First Birthday Google+

If the above audio file doesn't work you can right click on this link and download the MP3 version.

I was interviewed by Bernadette Young from ABC Gold Coast radio regarding the first birthday of Google+ and some of the data that we released regarding the popularity of Google+.

Transcript below (transcript most likely contains some errors):

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Bernadette Young: Well, what if you're looking for information about Google, though? I'm wondering if I'm being a bit cynical here, in particular Google+ whether it's very popular, almost one year after its release. I mean, call me a bit of a skeptic but when you Google that, not much comes up. So, I Binged it. I thought I'd see what Bing does with this topic. And, finally enough, that didn't get me much information either. The first article it took me to was something just after Google+ had been launched in the middle of last year. So is Google+ doing well nearly at its first birthday? Kevin Garber from Melon Media often joins us to discuss these kinds of things, and he's with us this afternoon. Hey, Kevin.

Kevin Garber: Good afternoon Bernadette.
Bernadette: Why wouldn't I be able to find that much on the stats behind Google+, do you reckon?
Kevin: A couple of reasons. The one is that Google has not been releasing any stats themselves, probably because things aren't going as rosy as they'd like. Twitter has been releasing a lot of stats about their own service. And Facebook's been particularly good since day one, which I guess has been easy because they've been growing at a ballistic rate since day one. So, when you're proud of something, it's a lot easier and a lot more fun to share it.
Bernadette: Yes, OK. So, what do we know?
Kevin: Well, we know a few things. We know that Google are seeing the Google+ service in terms of two different ways. They're seeing it, one, as a destination site and a social media publishing platform, similar to Facebook and Twitter. But, they're also seeing it as something a little bit different. They're also seeing it as a social spine that wraps around all of their products across their entire ecosystem. Of course, Google have Google Apps. They have Google Docs. They have the popular email service and they see it as a social layer around all of these things. Now, importantly, they see a very valuable aspect of Google+ as to people signing up for the Google+ service and providing some demographic information.

You mentioned you signed up for Google+, but you haven't quite used it.

Bernadette: Yes.
Kevin: No doubt, you popped in a little bit of information about yourself. That's incredibly useful to Google because Google's in the business of targeting ads and selling ads and making sure ads are effective. And now they have all these people giving them some wonderful demographic information which helps them immensely. So, from that perspective, they seem to be quite happy. But surely from a destination site, things aren't looking very good. And all the stats which we published some yesterday are revealing that from a destination site, people are posting less and less on Google+.
Bernadette: And so what stats did you come up with?
Kevin: Well, the stats are that Google+ started off relatively strongly about a year ago. And the public post number, they're 73% down since a year ago when it launched and 19% down since six months ago. So, the trend is in the wrong direction from a public post point of view. And of course, the public post is only one part of the equation because Google+ lets you create different circles and share different information with different circles. But, there is a feeling that the public post is representing that Google+ is really not getting any traction at all.
Bernadette: I think for people who use something, they might think that it's different to the people who don't use it. So for instance, one of the things I did find when I Googled this today was, actually someone's Google+ post, which I've never really come across before when I've looked for something online. It's from someone called Linda Lawry. She's in southwest Virginia and she was talking about somebody has a birthday coming up soon. Google+ was launched on June 28, blah, blah, blah. She'd been part of the first test group for Google+. So, she says, "We were a large but yet small group of connected people that did everything we could to test and break Google+. And as you can see, we couldn't break it nor could we imagine the changes and the growth of this platform." So, what are you planning for Google+ birthday?

And then she's talking about all this kind of birthday GIF. I don't even know what she's talking about. Is that a Google+ thing?

Kevin: What was that?
Bernadette: Have a GIF, G-I-F. She says, "I usually have a no GIF."
Kevin: A GIF is just an image.
Bernadette: Yes, right, OK. So, she said she normally has a no GIF rule but she'd break it for the first birthday of Google+. And I thought, "Oh, I must be really out of the loop. I don't know what this GIF is. It must be something."
Kevin: That's just an image.
Bernadette: Just an image. OK, share an image like a cupcake or what, something like that?
Kevin: Exactly.
Bernadette: Yes, OK. Happy Birthday. Oh, it's so new age, Kevin, isn't it? [laughs] Do you think it'll just...?
Kevin: What's so wonderful about the Internet is that "amateurs" quote, unquote like Instagram or Pinterest can really take on the big guys, i.e., Google, and the little guys get it right and the big guys get it wrong. And so any area society where amateurs can really have a very high impact and that's what's so exciting about this industry.
Bernadette: So, what has Google+ got wrong if things like, as you say, Instagram and Pinterest just went berserk straight away?
Kevin: Well, I think a couple of things. One, the user experience itself is just clunky. There's something wrong with it. It just doesn't flow. It's a little complicated to see what is going on. It's hard to work on. It just, it doesn't have that elegance and that little X factor that Facebook seems to have gotten right from pretty much the early days. Another aspect is they don't have an API. Now, what that means is they don't allow other services to connect into Google+. One of the reasons that Twitter was so successful so quickly was they had an API pretty early in the game, so that all these cool applications of sharing photos and analytics and statistics and tools quickly emerged. All these developers built tools around Twitter, and that's one of the reasons it grew so fast.

But, Google do not like to do that. So, no one can develop anything around Google+. So, the momentum around it is a lot slower. So, those are the two big reasons. Another reason is there is social media fatigue. And, people are, they've got Twitter. They've got Facebook. How much more can we share? How much more value can be added. So, they're a little bit late in the game in that aspect.

Bernadette: Yes, OK. I mean, I've been a little bit more aware of Google+ because I knew we'd have this conversation, Kevin. And, I noticed it at the bottom of a page to do with someone we're going to be talking about next hour, in fact, called DarwinTunes. And, it's this really great ongoing project and experiment that you can be a part of it if you want to where they're looking at the evolution of the perfect song. So, it starts off with some really pretty difficult music to listen to, and then you have to...people have been choosing what they liked, what they didn't like. And then it's morphed. It's had 3,000 evolutions so far.
Kevin: It's crowdsourcing it?
Bernadette: Yes, almost, exactly. Yes, same kind of thing, but scientists doing it to see if they can create a song that just about everybody would love to hear, basically. And when I was looking at the bottom of it there on Google+, and I just wonder, is it just going to disappear, a bit the same way like something used to be available on cassette and LP? Now, it's definitely not available on cassette. It might still be available on LP. Will we just not have Google+ at the bottom of people's Web pages and signatures on their emails?
Kevin: I think what's more likely to happen is that it will evolve. It will change. Google are very smart. They have a lot of smart people. They will work something out. They might get rid of it. They did have a service called Wave and Buzz, both of which, Wave, they did shut down. So, they are smart people. They will iterate on it. I think what they'd probably like to do is buy an existing social media service and roll it into something that exists already and is successful. But, of course, no one wants to sell to them. So, it will morph and it will evolve. But no doubt, that things aren't going as well as they'd hope, regardless of what the official line is.
Bernadette: Do you think someone's like in trouble over it? Do they get into a meeting room and it's, they say, "What have you done wrong here?" [laughs]
Kevin: Look. I think the spirit of Silicon Valley is very much about trial and error and innovating and making mistakes. I don't think anyone will get into trouble. But, I certainly think they see it as an opportunity to really sink their teeth into a challenge. And social is one aspect that is really missing from their portfolio. They really have not got social right. And they really do need to get it right somehow for the long term whether that's organically developing a product or whether that's acquiring something. It's really a missing piece of their puzzle for the future.