Google Maps is one of the company’s most popular services,
but when it comes to bringing in revenue, Maps is not
pulling its weight.
That’s by design — Google admits it has been slow to
monetize the app.
“We take a long term view,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai told a Wall
Street analyst who inquired about potential plans to turn Maps
into a more significant moneymaker
during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Thursday.
Pichai noted that Maps was still seeing strong user growth,
even years after its initial launch, thanks to the spread of
smartphones in emerging markets. Maps is “an integral” part
of the mobile phone, he noted. And with the rise of new
technologies like augmented reality, which overlays digital
images onto the real world, maps will play a bigger role, he
So what about the money?
Pichai didn’t provide an explicit answer about plans for
monetizing maps, but his comments give a pretty good sense of
what the company might have in mind:
“I’m sure you have noticed changes in Google Maps with the last
few months. If you open Google Maps, you’re traveling or out on a
Friday evening, we start surfacing a lot more info about what you
can do, places to eat and so on. So those are beginning to get
good feedback from users and I think that gives us an opportunity
to add value there overtime as well.”
The two key terms here are “good feedback” and
“add value.” That’s the core philosophy behind
all of Google’s advertising business.
Google loves to talk about how its ads are actually useful
to consumers rather than annoying distractions. In the case of
search ads, that attitude has helped build a company valued at
So if Google believes its Maps users are already enjoying getting
recommendations about nearby restaurants and attractions in
the app, it’s probably only a matter of time before Google gives
businesses the “opportunity” to participate as well.
No one wants their phone to be bombarded with unsolicited and
intrusive coupons and promotional offers for every retail store
they walk past on the street. But if you’re already
searching and exploring for nearby places in the Maps app,
Google could easily toss in a few promoted places or
coupons to its current recommendations — or turn it into an ad
platform of its own.
Pichai’s comments show the company clearly sees a place for ads
in Maps. It’s just a question of when Google is ready to flip the