How to Monetise Google Maps

I recently had a phone interview with Google for a position as an Associate Product Manager. One of the questions that totally stumped me was: “How would you monetise Google maps?” I was caught off guard and after two minutes of pausing and asking for some more time to think I was unable to come up with anything worthy on the spot. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job and I believe that being unable to answer that question cost me the job. However after a day or two, after the interview, I contemplated on the question and came up with three potential monetising ideas for Google Maps.

1. API monetisation: Google Maps API is used nearly everywhere on websites and applications. Why not simply charge those who use the API for commercial purposes? For example a person selling mobile phone applications heavily utilising Google Maps API could negotiate a revenue sharing scheme with Google. Commercial websites that use Google Maps API may be allocated x amount of free calls to the Google Maps API per day and then be charged a fee for extra calls.

2. Premium application or subscription service: Geolocation is a trending Internet service and Google could capitalise on this using its Google Maps product and development prowess. It could release a premium application, either fixed or subscription based, for portable devices that provide heaps of extra information that users would want.

For example let say user John is in the city one day and would like to know what events are happening in the city and surrounding areas around him. John could then flip to the application and see himself as a marker on the map and other event markers around him providing information on the events, such as description, time and cost. He could then be feeling peckish and decides to use the application again to find restaurants and cafes around him. After lunch he decides to do a bit of shopping and uses the application to help him locate store sales around him. Finally heading home he looks up the traffic on the freeway using the application and it shows him the traffic report and a webcam shot of the freeway. The application informs that the traffic is highly congested due to poor visibility caused by a nearby bushfire and again this application could show markers of emergency events happening in real-time and on location.

Another feature of this application could be the use of augmented reality allowing users to take a photo of a building or area to get more detail information on it. For example John could take a photo of the Sydney Opera House to get information on its opening hours, costs, reviews, history of the place etc.

3. Virtual advertising: My last idea was inspire by the increasing use of in-game advertising done by Xbox Live and Steam. Gamers nowadays can see dynamic ads pop-up in the game levels they play and there is plenty of outdoor advertising in the real world. Why not simply create virtual outdoor ads for Street View? Google could look over its Street View for potential ad placement on buses, bus shelters, posters and billboards. Google would be able to identify the busiest streets based on views of Street View and maybe charge a premium on those ad placements, just like in real life. Ads can be clicked thru and could also be targeted when people are looking for directions through Street View. For example if someone was looking for directions from an airport to a hotel then related ads could be shown such as car hire companies, tourist sites within the area, restaurants, airlines etc.

Hopefully Google will pick up on some of these ideas and see them to fruition.

Victor Tsen April 2010

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