Google Pushes Back Against EU Publisher PR Offensive

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt took to the Google Europe Blog this weekend to defend his company against a Europe-wide ad campaign that asserts Google has abused its dominant market position in search. It’s essentially a public appeal on the same terms being argued to the European Commission for why Google needs to be restrained. […]

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Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt took to the Google Europe Blog this weekend to defend his company against a Europe-wide ad campaign that asserts Google has abused its dominant market position in search. It’s essentially a public appeal on the same terms being argued to the European Commission for why Google needs to be restrained.

Ironically (or perhaps not) the ad appeared in European newspapers, but not so far as I can tell online. Currently I’m in Germany and looked unsuccessfully for the ad yesterday.

Schmidt says in his blog post that he wants to provide “facts” to counter the European publisher assertions. Unlike the publisher claims, Schmidt argues, Google is not the “gateway to the internet.” He cites the fact that newspapers such as Bild, Le Monde and Financial Times “get most of their online traffic directly (less than 15% comes from Google).”

Schmidt goes on to say that consumer usage is highly diversified and by no means all about Google:

  • To book a flight or buy a camera for your next holiday, you’re as likely go to a site like Expedia or Amazon as you are Google.
  • If you’re after reviews for restaurants or local services, chances are you’ll check out Yelp or TripAdvisor
  • And if you are on a mobile phone — which most people increasingly are — you’ll go straight to a dedicated app to check the sports scores, share your photos or look for recommendations. The most downloaded app in Europe is not Google, it is Facebook Messenger.

He then explains what Google’s doing at the “top of the page” when it provides structured information (or ads) that push down publisher results. “[It isn’t] true to say that we are promoting our own products at the expense of the competition. We show the results at the top that answer the user’s queries directly (after all we built Google for users, not websites).”

European publishers see Google trying to divert traffic that “should” be going to them. Yet Google is responding to market pressures and evolving user demands. In other words, Google is not directly trying to compete with European publishers; it’s trying to stay relevant to users. However the outcome looks the same.

That statement may sound naive to some. But I genuinely believe this is what Google thinks it’s doing. Mobile apps have endangered search usage and Google is fighting that existential threat with an all-out, multi-pronged plan that involves Android, Google Voice Search/OK Google, Google Maps, Google’s Search app and Google Now.

Google is “guilty” of having reduced some types of information to “commodity” status. Sports scores are one such example. It’s also partly true of general news and other categories of information.

Especially in a mobile context many users don’t care whether the baseball, NFL or World Cup score comes from a particular outlet or site; they simply want to know the score. That’s also true of the weather. Is it going to rain in New York today? I’m not really interested in whether that information is from Weather.com, Yahoo Weather or Accuweather.

However if I have a weather or sports app with great additional context and features I might go directly there instead of Google search. Google is fighting that change in behavior by trying to turn search into your “personal assistant” and providing lots of structured “answers” to user questions. This is the theme of the new Google TV/video ad campaign for its app (“ask the Google app”).

The weekend’s public-PR salvo against Google may be the opening of another “front” in Europe’s offensive against the company. Ultimately, however, Eu publishers need to focus on their own products and brands to strengthen their relationships with end users. Otherwise not amount of regulatory intervention or anti-Google PR will save them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSGHZ4YHP54


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About the author

Greg Sterling
Contributor
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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