Google In China 2.0: New Strategy Avoids Censorship Showdown

Some 18 months after clashing with Beijing authorities, Google seems to have found a major new way to break through in China. Not only does it avoid web censorship dilemma, its new strategy opens an opportunity for Google to capture the booming online adv

Google HQ, Beijing (Cory M. Grenier)
Google HQ, Beijing (Cory M. Grenier)
Yang Yang

BEIJING - Last month, John Liu, Google's vice-president, showed up at a high-profile press conference after an 18-month phase of both tremendous public pressure and behind-the-scenes legwork. He vigorously promoted Google's advertising business and emphasized specifically that Google has passed its "ICP" licensing annual review that allows the U.S. search giant to operate in China.

What does all this mean?

A company insider says that basic Internet search functions will no longer be the core business of Google China. Instead, the Mountain View-based company will focus on building DoubleClick – an online "ad exchange" and a subsidiary of Google. And he predicts that DoubleClick will bring an even larger market than that of its search engine.

Google seems to have found its breakthrough China strategy. Not only does it avoid the Chinese web censorship, it opens an opportunity for Google to achieve explosive growth in the online advertising market.

For months rumors have circulated around the idea that "Google wants to return to China." Liu refutes this: "Google has never left China….It has continued to provide music and translation services all through the past year… Our related business has also had significant progress."

In 2010, Google China's top 50 advertisers doubled their display advertising spending, and 97% of the top 100 advertisers placed display advertising, says Liu, adding that Google's revenue from the Chinese market is rising every quarter.

Liu believes that over the next two to three years display advertising revenue will reach $200 billion, and its potential to generate revenue is greater than the search engine.

He is very optimistic about the advertising mainly coming from text ads, mobiles, rich media and video. The faith is founded on the fact that ad display currently generates 6 billion hits per day and covers 96% of Chinese internet users and counts some 100,000 partners.

As new technologies and new products arrive, the development of display advertising may find new traction.

Current display ads are already precise, traceable, measurable and interactive. In addition to the amounts of clicks and displays, other indicators include the level of interactivity and the length of viewing.

In 2008, Google paid $3.24 billion for DoubleClick, which it viewed as a "platform-level product."

Zhou Jie, the founder and CEO of Lang Tao Jin Co., a web ad agency, reckons that Google China should focus in the future on promoting the DoubleClick business.

The ad platform's success in the United States is its ability to allow advertisers to find the appropriate media for their products, and more accurately target their public. To a Chinese online market that is still finding its way, the DoubleClick platform is ever more strategic. And as long as the platform complies with China's advertising laws, it doesn't risk getting tied up with "content review" censorship.

John Liu pointed out that Google continues to provide search service in China for PC users. However, because of competition from other search engines, growth is gradually slowing down.

Still, it is the mobile Internet where growth is accelerating. Liu announced that Google China will incorporate the AdMob mobile terminal advertising system into its new unified system. That means an even greater market for Google is bound to be in mobile. Currently in the Chinese market, apart from Apple's iPad, almost anything referred to as "pad" or "tablet" uses Google's Android software. In addition to iPhone, the majority of smart phones are equipped with Android's 2.2 version.

The Baidu factor

For Google, the choice to cut into the world's biggest Internet market from a new entry point was also a reaction to market realities. In the face of its chief Chinese competitor, Baidu, which has absolute dominance among PC users, Liu pointed out that "Web ads cannot count merely on the traffic, but must focus more and more on the product's technology. It won't be enough to measure Google's Chinese market in the future merely by looking at its market share and revenue, but by how much influence it has on the Chinese market."

The last memory many have of Google in China is when the search giant pulled out of the Chinese market on the March 23, 2010 with a message from the U.S. company's blog announcing it would stop the self-censorship of its search service. All users visiting that site were redirected to Google.com.hk from then on. This provided uncensored simplified Chinese search results.

The traffic on Google China has gone down significantly since then. According to the data of Analysis International, Google's search engine share in China has declined from 24.2% a year ago to 18.9% for the second quarter of this year. Baidu continues to grow even further.

In addition, there were also the conflicts between Google and its Chinese agencies. Seven of which sued Google because it unilaterally broke their proxies. But Chiu says that's all in the past, "Google's dealer's team is now very steady."

Wang Ying, the director of Google's Online Partnerships Group of Greater China and Korea Region, said that Google is creating a unified advertising platform that incorporates the management systems of AdMob mobile and AdSense and DoubleClick for PC terminals.

Read the original article in Chinese

photo - Cory M. Grenier

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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