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Monday, December 06, 2004

Should Google Be Competing with its Advertisers? (If So, How Much?)

A few tidbits for today...

* Google Ads on Google. I just typed the phrase "flight tracker" into Google, and saw Google promoting its own flight tracking service in the top sponsored listing position (the good spot, at the top of the page). Seems as if Google is doing more and more of this. But doesn't that make it harder for advertisers to get average ad positions beginning with a "1"? I tell you, when you keep upping your bid and optimizing your ad, and keep seeing "2.0" instead of, say, "1.7," it can get pretty discouraging. Given that Google doesn't bother us with all sorts of offline promo claptrap, I do think it's fair the way they gently self-promote their various search features. You have to get the word out somehow. But I hope they have serious discussions about the damage this might be doing to advertisers in those particular areas. I hardly think that some company advertising on the term "flight tracker" would have expected itself to be in competition with Google and therefore deserving of a gentle slap upside the head. Is Google going to become one of those companies that sees itself in competition with just about everyone?

* Forget Jennicam, Here's Weather Guy! As a weather freak, I often have to control the impulse to post stuff like this. But it's hard to hold back what with the flurry of discussion on weather feeds by all sorts of XML, SOAP, RSS, and other major acronymic tech experts. These folks are saying a lot of interesting things, but one thing they're missing is the major transformation in how we'll soon be gathering the underlying data that count as "the weather." I for one simply cannot stand the wildly inaccurate temperature readings (usually about an hour out of date, moreover) you get on the radio (but the web is just as bad, as the source is an official government weather station)... in Toronto, you often get the main weather reading at Pearson airport (the forecast is always "windy and treeless today, with intermittent loud screaming sounds"), plus some inaccurate station they stick out of their office tower downtown. Sometimes you'll hear some mention of cooler or warmer air near the lake. The reality is, you have gusty winds, all sorts of microclimates, and major variation in temperature in any place that is near a major body of water. And if you're a weather freak, that just won't do. When weather data are drawn from thousands of uplinked personal weather stations owned by weather freaks like me, the weather reports will actually be accurate and useful to your situation. It really doesn't help me a lot to hear that a thunderclap passed by about an hour ago in upper Scarberia when I'm sitting here in lower Humberama. Temperature, precipitation, air quality readings, humidity, wind speed... you name it, I can't wait to upload it. And then there's my other project, relating to water quality... but that's another fish to fry...

* Shopping.com Not Da Bomb. Deutsche Bank, one of the underwriters, goes and initiates coverage on Shopping.com with a "sell." Ouch. I think it's an honest assessment, though. The company is a huge risk because it is competing with powerful conglomerates that they rely on to some extent for referral traffic. One other point that gets overlooked is that Amazon.com and EBay, while not considered "meta shopping engines," increasingly are this. But they do it with the backing of huge resources, an existing loyal customer base, and cool search and personalization features that make the sites easy to use. Shopping.com, unless it can figure out its unique role in this economy, is basically looking to be acquired. They had better not waste too much time deciding. Some others, like Bizrate (now Shopzilla) may fare better if they pay attention to developing original content (reviews) that find a happy place as underlying data for their portal competitors. For consumers, trust and ease of use (and an apparent decrease, not increase, in bewildering options) will win out. It continues to look to me as if Amazon is occupying the space that some of the shopping engines want to occupy. And now that they have solid earnings, there seems to be no stopping Amazon. I do think there will be spaces for dozens of interesting plays in the "consumer reviews and ratings" arena. The key word is "interesting." Some of these things just catch on and spread. No use predicting how or why, as I'd probably be wrong. I mean what the heck was eBay anyway?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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