In 2011, Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, wanted to study the millions of hours saved by Google searches. His team took questions like, Does using butter or margarine affect the size of baked cookies? and compared the time it took to Google the results versus researching the answers offline, in cookbooks.
Varian concluded that the typical Google question saved 15 minutes. (You can be skeptical of trusting Google on these matters, but Varian is a widely respected economist, and I have no better data on the question, so just go with it.) “When you multiply that time difference out across all the queries that the average American makes using the average hourly wage of Americans, that works out to about $500 per adult worker per year,” Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee write in their book The Second Machine Age.
In 2011, the mobile advertising market was a pittance. Today, it's a $7 billion industry, and mobile devices now command 20 percent of our attention, more than radio and print combined. Google has used its time-saving, bottom-of-funnel advantage to become, by a wide margin, the richest company in mobile advertising. Now it controls 37 percent of the small-screen ad market, a lead that is padded with the company’s dominance in search advertising. If you remove search and focus exclusively on display ads (banners and video, but not search), it's Facebook that controls more than a third of the market. That’s three times more than Google’s share, five times more than Twitter, and seven times Apple or Pandora.