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

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