Google Explores the Outer Limits of Radio

“There is nothing wrong with your radio. Do not attempt to adjust the station. We are in control of the transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will turn up the volume. If we want it softer, we will turn it down. We know where you are. We know what you’re looking at. For the next millennium, we will control all that you see and hear. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with your radio, your electronic gadgetry or your spinning head. You are about to take an adventure. You are about to experience the awe which is associated with a journey to – Google Without Limits.”

If Google has its way, you will never log off their world. They already place their Google AdWord ads in your face just about anywhere you go on your computer; you see them on your internet-enabled phone or other handheld device and now in print magazines due to their recent bulk ad space acquisitions. They may manage your next eBay search or be your long distance phone company. And they certainly generate enough public relations to fill your newspapers and cable news networks with stories about their next world conquest. In tightly targeted markets they will even offer “Google-Air”: Googlized “Free” Wi-Fi zones.

In this brave new Google world, some of us rebels cherish our shrinking Google-free moments commuting in the car. Here we can un-goog a bit, tuning in some ancient technology – the radio. There it is: the yak, the repetitive electronically programmed music selections, the optically challenged news readers, the Ouija board weather guy, and those lame, lame commercials, punctuated by an occasionally entertaining one that sends me reminiscing about the days I wrote and sold some of those things.

For those who wish even a more pristine, commercial free existence, there’s syndicated satellite radio – all reggae, all the time… or whatever your preference. Your satellite radio dial can be a time-machine of sorts linking you to some nationally (even world) syndicated shows originating from another place and time in your life – a virtual audio commute down memory lane. This route, unfortunately, may include commercials.

Well, before you get too comfortable in your bucket seat to yesterday, listen to what Googliath has planned for you. Earlier this year, Google purchased dMark Broadcasting, a “digital solutions provider for the radio broadcast industry.” Google is going to package and sell radio commercials for their AdWords clients. No big deal, right? Think again.

On June 15th of this year at a luncheon with a group of publishing executives in New York City, Head Googie Eric Schmidt, shared his vision for how in the future Googlized radio ads would stream into your life and your auto sanctum.

Here’s how he envisions it: you’re driving in your car listening to your favorite GPS enabled satellite radio station when a radio ad comes on specially “personalized to your needs” (sic). For example, he suggests while driving past a clothing store, a radio ad should remind you that you “need” (sicker still) a pair of pants. Your radio – your car, for all intents and purposes – instructs you to take the next left turn and proceed to an upcoming clothing store. That store, of course, has paid for the privilege of fulfilling this highly vital (way sick) “need.”

These and other radio opportunities would be, according to the fine folk at dMarc, “a broad suite of digital broadcast options” available to AdWords advertisers.

As a colleague and I sat envisioning these “options”, we pictured that after the trip to get those “needed” pants, your radio would tell you that you’re hungry and pass on the location of the nearest fast food sponsor who is offering free French fries with your next order of fried chicken stubble. Imagine a young family with children in the back seat yelling in unison, “there it is Mom, there it is, free fries, free fries! The car says, they’re free!”

And when the next generation of “smart cars” comes along preprogrammed to a destination and doing the driving for you — what then?

“Hal, this isn’t the way home. Hal, this is a drive-in window. Hal, I’m on a diet. Hal…”

“Sorry Dave, but I think you need French fries. Should I order, Dave? Or will you?”

If any of this scares you, and it should, send your concerns to Herr Schmitt. He can be reached around the Google, or is that Apple, boardroom these days, or maybe, ah… oh, just do a Google search. He’ll probably show up on one of the first five or ten pages. Don’t you think?