In this third and final part of the interview, Paul answers a series of questions I asked him about Google’s plans to pursue specific directions in its market research offering, including qualitative, text analytics and adding languages and geographies. Finally, he answers my question about what we can expect from Google Consumer Surveys in the next three to six months.
Here’s Part 3 of the interview.
Let me ask you about a few other possible directions that you could go and see what are your thoughts on those. The field of text analytics, looking at the vast amount of data that’s out there on blogs and websites and inferring sentiment and thoughts from the population out there on the internet, analyzing that text, and delivering insights based on that. Is that something that Google could and/or would be interested in doing?
I don’t think anything’s off the table for us, but what we’re focused on right now is the sort of self-service aspect of this. So companies coming in and wanting to ask users their own questions. I think if we got into doing this automatically for companies or others, it would be more like a syndicated research business. And that’s not something, at least right now, we’re interesting in doing.
Are these questions served on mobile websites, on mobile devices?
Yes. Some of our publishers are mobile publishers. I think mobile is really interesting because of the form factor, of the screens and the phones, which makes it a little more difficult for a respondent to reply to a question that they’ve seen. So I think there’s a lot of work that could be done in mobile to make the experience better. I think the same trade-offs could be made in the mobile space that we’re making with publishers online, on the web. For example, access to an app is very similar to access to content. You could imagine ways for users to choose to pay for apps with their time instead of their money.
And it’s just in English now?
Right now it’s just in English, yes.
OK. And are you looking at expanding that?
Yes, of course. I mean, we started with what we know best here in the US. But, yes, we are looking actively at international expansion.
OK, and have you considered adding qualitative type questions or inquiries in addition to the quantitative question, the standard multi-select questions and the like
Yeah, of course. I mean I think, again, our focus has been the respondent experience first, more than anything else. And so when you start adding things like open-ended type questions, qualitative questions, the user experience, the respondent experience, decreased a little bit. It takes more effort, more work to do that. So we’re trying to balance the fact that the qualitative research is really interesting and useful to researchers, but is a little more difficult for the respondents to do and do it in an accurate way. And also we want to provide really good analytics and reports on that qualitative data. So we’re trying to think through those scenarios. I guess as of right now, we don’t have any qualitative-type questions, but it’s something that we’re looking into and I expect to have something soon in that space.
Are you considering additional geographic targeting options?
One thing I should say about the geographic targeting. While you can only target a question to a region, once you get the report back you can drill down all the way to the city level, actually state level, in the UI. So you can see state by state answers in the reporting interface. What we want to have first is the sort of representative sample of the US population. It becomes an inventory problem when users target different sub-populations of the larger US. And so what we’re trying to do is balance the inventory that we have and the requests from our users. And we made a decision up front to do only region-based targeting to start. But eventually that will be more granular. And we can go down to a very granular level if we wanted to. And we’ve done several tests of that as well.
How about targeting in other countries?
Yeah. So I think the same thing applies to other countries. Right now it’s only the US, but as we expand internationally we’ll go after the places where the market is the largest, first, and easiest for us, so the English speaking countries. And then as we expand our publisher base, we can get into some of the countries that are harder to target with market research today and are more valuable. Like a lot of the African countries, for example.
What can people expect from Google Consumer Surveys in the next three to six months?
Well, I mean the most interesting thing that I think – we talked about speed a little bit earlier in the interview. And speed is actually important for us from an engineering and product perspective as well. Since we’ve launched, we’ve done four major releases. About every two weeks we’re launching something new. And so I think in the next three to six months, what you’re going to see is that continue. Lots of new features and releases, things for both researchers and respondents. We’re really concentrating on things that Google is really good at, pulling out interesting bits of data from large data sets, doing really fast and responsive UI that makes it both simple and quick for researchers to get the data that they want, and new question types to fill out the formats that we have today, I think, are the things that you’ll see coming up fairly soon in the future.
Paul McDonald, thank you for your time today. I really appreciate it.
It’s a real pleasure talking to you again. Thank you very much.
This concludes the series of posts from my interview with Paul McDonald. I hope you have enjoyed this interview nearly as much as I enjoyed conducting it!