Friday, October 8, 2004

Another View of Google Print: Content Rated for its Advertising Value

My colleague John Blossom has already described how Google Print, the new feature in Beta that was announced formally at the Frankfurt Book Fair, is stirring up the roles and relationships between book publishers, booksellers, and consumers. There's another angle on the Google Print feature that merits some comments: how will Google choose to balance its mission to "organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful" with its requirement to produce satisfactory returns to shareholders.

I've written before about this duality of Google; Google is a search technology company that receives nearly all of its revenue from advertising. Through AdWords and AdSense, Google sells access to the virtual real estate on its search results pages and on content sites that agree to participate in the AdSense network. One of its challenges is to provide sufficient inventory of pages in the AdSense network on which to place relevant ads.

Google Print appears to fulfill the added inventory need quite well. It also helps that trade books cover a wide range of subjects to which AdSense ads can be matched. However, it is important to recognize that Google Print is a merchadising tool not a search tool that makes the content accessible. To use their own wording on the Google Print FAQ for publishers, "Google Print is a book marketing program, as opposed to an online library, and as such your entire book will not be made available online unless you expressly permit it". Even if the entire book is made available, users only see a restricted number of pages, usually 1-3 (some with only content from the preface) for each search conducted.

So, in marking my balanced scorecard to measure how Google will prioritize its decisions to add content to its network based on expanding access to information or based on increasing advertising revenue, I'll chalk up one mark in the "advertising revenue" column.

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