You’d think that after three years of Phil Burgess being deliberately outrageous in order to advance Telstra’s agenda, the media would have figured out what the guy was up to.

But no … the unquiet American was gifted a parting volley in a series of soft interviews that let him talk up Telstra’s credentials as a budding media company cruelly restrained by the dead hand of government.

The real new media giant, however, stirred ominously this week, as Google’s new mobile phone, the G1, emerged blinking into the light.

Of course it should not be called a “Google anything.” The G1 is a phone running an operating system called Android that was written because Google wanted it done and rounded up a coalition to make it happen.

The first Android phone comes from a company called HTC and behaves an awful lot like the iPhone.

And just as the iPhone makes Apple money by being tied into a closed ecosystem that sees Apple cream the cash for songs and software, Android will be a partially closed system that brings Google rivers of gold from advertising all without Google needing to employ a single journo, run a music shop or movie download service. Tedious negotiations with Hollywood cretins are redundant in the Google world.

Nor will Google have to play the weird games handset-makers indulge in as they try to convince phone companies that their new model can make more money than their rivals. They’ll leave that mucky business to the folks that build phones around Android.

No-one knows if it will work. But everyone agrees it’s a bloody clever try at nailing the mobile advertising market, which is expected to get huge, fast, as context-sensitive ads start to leap up from our handsets wherever we go. Context sensitive ads are ad-land’s dream, because they are tired of hoping you care about the messages they present. Now that phone companies can tell where you are, thanks to GPS phones, advertisers are wondering how to put this stuff to work.

Long story short, if you are near a burger bar at 12:50pm there’s a chance future ads will figure you could well be peckish and SMS you a cheap lunch voucher to get you off the street and behind a Big Mac.

If that sounds nasty, you’re not alone in your discomfort. The privacy lobby is licking its lips as ad-land is wondering how to sell this to the public.

And Google? Well those text ads aren’t that intrusive, are they? No-one could be upset by those, surely?

Or at least that’s what the company hopes.

It may well work, too. And if it does, bet your bottom burger that Google gets more cash out of online ads than other, aspiring, media companies get out of ads they whack in and around their own content.

And this is where the real genius of Google emerges. Wannabe media companies (the artists formerly known as phone companies) want to supplant current media companies and advertise to the resulting audiences. Google belives that people will always clamber out of walled gardens and instead wants to change the game to make audience aggregation irrelevant and the individual’s proclivities supreme.

Sounds like something Phil Burgess might support, doesn’t it?

Peter Fray

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