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paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies

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1. Google

Search, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #1

Digital Content Revenue

$36,400,000,000 (96% of total)

Digital Snapshot

The Big G still makes almost all of its money from its original advertising system. It has tried to diversify through selling enterprise apps services. The core paid-links business continues apace – the behemoth attracted a quarter more paid clicks in 2011 than in 2010?. So the proportion of Google’s advertising served on its own website, versus through Google AdSense, is now more than two thirds.

Key Move

Is Google a one-trick pony, reliant on advertising? Recently, it resolved to execute quicker, milk its cash cow better and do more to sell digital content. Ad relevancy has already been improved across Google’s product set by unifying privacy policies, helping the Google+ social network take content from all over Google. But the jury remains out on Google+ and Google’s efforts to sell digital content through Google Play.

Our Methodology

Google is 100% digital, but says 96% of its money comes from contextual and display advertising. Although it has tried to diversify its revenue, we think one of its main alternatives – sale of enterprise services through Google Apps – is still negligible.

Source: SEC 10k: 2011 Annual Return

— RA

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  2. ciaranj

    If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  5. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  6. Brendan

    Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  7. Zato Gibson

    “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.