Will Google’s original content pay off?

'Some Questions Can't Be Answered by Google' (Mykl Roventine via Flickr)Google stock may have taken a dive Thursday after the company announced disappointing financial numbers for Q2, but it’s perfect timing for a blog we wanted to write on the challenges Google may face in another arena: OC. No, not that suburban paradise just south of Los Angeles, or the TV show about the people who live and shop there, but that elusive and beautiful jewel, Original Content.

Last month, Google announced what they called a “landmark” deal with “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane (hear him describe the deal’s mind boggling “complexity”). Google hopes to succeed where Yahoo, AOL and MSN have mostly failed—in creating OC that actually pays the bills (except, perhaps, AOL and reality king Mark Burnett’s short-lived but successful partnership of the Internet game show “Gold Rush”).

What is brilliant about Google’s content deal is the flexibility for distributing content and how the ads will be served (i.e. either a banner ad, or a short pre-roll, etc). The challenge for Google, if it hopes to truly master the distribution and monetization of OC, will be threefold:

-there is a limited amount of non-UGC, high quality Internet video content out there (Google got lucky with MacFarlane, but they’ll need more guys and talent like him for it to work in the long term–even Funny or Die hasn’t produced a ton of hits beyond The Landlord, and they are arguably an extremely talented bunch)

-Google will have to be steadfast in keeping the ads palatable to users, and the content palatable to advertisers (i.e. if they try to do 30 second ads in front of 5 minute content like so many advertisers unbelievably are still delivering, users will reject it with unimaginable fury as some of the hate mail posted on the Yahoo message boards shows; or if they get too edgy with their original content, advertisers will be reluctant to sponsor it)

-Once Google proves it works, they’ll have to convince the networks to give it a whirl. Network relationships with the Internet world can be rocky territory, and the two cultures are very different. However, I think this is not impossible, and likely, there will be mavericks like Mark Burnett or MOJO TV who will start pushing the envelope at some point (in the spirit of Trent Reznor’s and Radiohead’s push back to the music industry experiments). But it will take time.

Hats off to Google and MacFarlane. We wish them well, and hope they will succeed in going where few have dared to go before. Or, perhaps more aptly put, where few have emerged alive and limbs in tact from in their attempts…*Next day update, looks like Google is already answering the challenge and keeping up with its game-changing reputation, announcing more plans to distribute entertainment content. Advertising Age quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt saying: ‘Hollywood needs to adapt to the anytime anywhere consumer model.”