Google made its foray into free music streaming today with the launch of an ad-supported version of Google Play Music, which will compete head-on with Pandora, Spotify and the forthcoming Apple Music.
A paid version of Google Play has been available for a couple of years, but it's the first time Google is leaning on advertising to create a free service—and likely pick up a lot more users. After all, if its advertising for services like YouTube is any indication, the deep-pocketed Internet giant probably has a big marketing budget to play with.
Here are five interesting ways that Google Play Music could shake up advertising and marketing:
1. Better Data for Targeting
Similar to Pandora and Spotify, the free Google Play Music is based off of ad-supported streaming that serves up themed playlists of songs.
Both Pandora and Spotify have worked to add better targeting options, including programmatic buying and data-based formats, into ads for a couple years. But Google's trove of data from search and email that is tied to a login account would likely best both music-streaming companies.
2. Wider Advertising Reach
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company did not say which ad formats would immediately be available with Google Play Music, but a quick test of the new audio player this afternoon shows Google using two types of ads: Google Display Networks and video promos.
When listeners first open the streaming-radio player, a video pops up—not unlike YouTube's TrueView—explaining how Google Play Music works. Similar to how brands insert ads between YouTube clips, it's not hard to imagine advertisers using these ads to get someone's attention before they start listening to music.
Google Play Music should also give marketers more visibility for display ads. As folks listen to music, text and image ads appear on the right side of the screen—as they do on publishers' sites.
3. Makes YouTube Ads More Skippable
A Google Play Music paid subscription, which cuts out ads as people listen to music, costs $9.99 per month. What's more, the subscription also removes ads served before music video clips on YouTube.
4. Search Power
Google launched Google Play, its digital music store, more than three years ago. The tie-in with its search roots is intriguing, but there is still a massive opportunity to improve music discovery through search.
If Google is able to weave Google Play Music with the technology that powers the world's most dominant search engine, it has a chance to distinguish itself against the long list of smaller online music companies also trying to crack music discovery, including Shazam and Rdio.
5. It Could Beat Apple to the Subscription Money
It's no coincidence that a free version of Google Play Music launches just a week before Apple launches Apple Music—the Cupertino, Calif., company's own incursion into streaming music.
Apple's upcoming service is based on the same paid business model as iTunes and requires a $9.99 monthly subscription.
By pushing today's announcement out before Apple Music, Google is making a bid to convert free-wielding listeners into paid subscribers.
"We hope you'll enjoy it so much that you'll consider subscribing to Google Play Music to play without ads, take your music offline, create your own playlists, and listen to any of the 30 million songs in our library on any device and as much as you'd like," said Google product manager Elias Roman in a blog post.