Sunday, June 26, 2005

Google eCommerce Initiatives: Follow the Patents to Premium Content

Much of the early media buzz on Google's move to ecommerce functionality (initial WSJ article, premium) focused on the concept of Google going into competition with eBay. But as pointed out later in the week a very likely source of the rumors may have more to do with the fruit of a patent filed by Google last December that provides for a number of content accessibility capabilities - including management of access to premium content from magazines, CDs, DVDs and audio books. This is already promised in the FAQ page for Google Video, which states that although current uploads are distributed for free the ability to charge is in the wings. We'll leave it to others to track the potential eBay aspects of Google's ecommerce initiatives, but clearly Google is sticking to its core philosophies in assembling content ecommerce capabilities - making unique technology available to all who desire content commercialization in an apparently source-agnostic manner. As we mentioned in last week's weblog entry the Yahoo! Subscriptions beta is publisher-centric, focusing on searching premium sources that still have their own unique premium access management methods.

The source-agnostic Google methodology is certain to make publishers used to managing access via their own established controls somewhat nervous, but it's a vision that someone is going to win with eventually in the long run - perhaps even Google. What eBay has demonstrated is that "the long tail" of commerce for goods outside of the mass marketing spotlight are well-served by an open marketplace that allows sellers and buyers to find one another efficiently - a concept that seems to draw in the mass-marketed goods over time as well. The supplier that focuses on creating a content marketplace that works for buyers as well as it does for sellers of all kinds is the one likely to become the eBay of content. So far that's not major aggregators or Yahoo!, which seem to be unsure about having today's premium content in the same league as other sources via search and ecommerce mechanisms. There are any number good reasons for segregating high-quality content from junk, but the wheres and hows of this are changing rapidly. All publishers and aggregators need to be prepared to have their content and content services compete in an open marketplace that favors buyers as much as sellers. Will Google be that marketplace? Stranger things have happened...
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