Why Google Copies

At Digital DD, we’ve long argued that Google uses a two-stage process to expand into new businesses: first, they scoop up and aggregate lots of data, while distributing lots of traffic to the people they aggregate. Then, they use their aggregated data to bootstrap their own content creation. Once their content is competitive, they automatically place it ahead of competing content. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land slightly disagrees. Where Danny and the DDD team agree is that this is exactly what companies should expect from Google, and that in the long term a competitive advantage based solely on the current iteration of the search algorithm is not likely to last.

Google’s explicit mission is to organize the world’s information. That leaves room for customers and suppliers, but not competitors.

The Fight for Real Names

Opponents of Facebook’s and Google+’s real-names policy have created a site about their preferred names. This carefully sets out the argument for letting users pick their names, puts a human face on the issue, and manages to portray them all as very weird people. For ad-based networks, real names are just too useful as a piece of persistent identity.

In the long term, the anti real-names people will likely have to use social norms instead of agitating for different policies. Fortunately, there’s a precedent: the default online is to be uniquely identified by a “handle” rather than a full name, but users are able to figure out the real identity behind the handle. If it can work that way, it can work both ways.

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal thinks real names are a revolutionary policy because they hold people accountable in all contexts. That’s been the idea behind Facebook for a long time.

What Formats Does Universal Search Prefer?

SearchMetrics has posted the results of a study showing how popular different kinds of content are in Google’s Universal Search. It’s not especially surprising: images and video are growing fast, and books are declining.

Images might be growing for a counterintuitive reason: they are likely to get fewer clicks but to increase the speed with which people click something else—images are a great way to visually confirm that a search is showing the correct results, since people recognize visuals (e.g. faces, logos) faster than text. By that theory, image optimization would make more sense for brands.

AirBNB Continues to Add Safety Features

After responding to excessively eloquent complaints about safety, AirBNB has launched a new set of safety features based on user requests. AirBNB’s new safety rules rely on connecting to other trusted networks—one more reason that a real-names policy will be hard to dismantle.

Facebook’s “Interested In” Needs an Overhaul

Since shortly after it was launched, Facebook’s profiles have had an “interested in” field for users seeking relationships. Outside of the US, that is far less apparent. This will have a minimal impact on their long-term success, but it’s one data point in favor of the theory that Facebook has lots of improvement and customization ahead of it.

Google Tests Overwhelming Sitelinks

Google is testing their detailed, twelve-sitelink layout for trusted sites. This gives much more real estate to the top results, and pushes secondary results even further below the fold for high-revenue terms. The net result: Geico gets more revenue from searches for “Geico,” and less revenue from searches for “Car Insurance,” while Google takes the opposite trade.

The Onion Tests Metered Paywalls

The parody newspaper site is testing a $30/year package for overseas readers. It’s a fine line: Onion articles are frequently shared on social networks, and frequent sharers will bump into this limit fast. The Onion may end up using “Pay With a Tweet“-style payment systems, which will preserve the secondary revenue-generation effects from avid sharers.

Yipit Launches a New Channel Check

Daily deal aggregator Yipit has launched a trending deals feature, which highlights daily deals that are performing abnormally well. This could also be a rich source for anecdotes about local businesses and changing American tastes.

Which News Sites Get The Most Out of Their Visitors?

An excellent PaidContent piece estimates average revenue per unique visitor for several news sites in the US and abroad. The differentials are a little too big to be trusted, but they’re an indicator that news audiences have wildly different values. One possibility presents itself: using low-monetization news sites as lead generation tools for higher-monetization sites. If NYT users are worth so much more than Huffington Post readers, the NYT could pay the Huffington Post a premium to siphon readers over.

Groupon Caves on Accounting

Groupon, whose GAAP financial statements include revenue, gross profit, and operating cash flow, has been asked to drop the comparatively more conservative ACSOI measure. ACSOI is, of course, a more optimistic number than Groupon’s reported net income. But investors are well aware of the differences among these numbers, and as has been pointed out before, ACSOI is much harder to manipulate than, for example, reported net income. However, this should have the positive effect of turning the IPO into a vote on Groupon’s business model, not their accounting.

How ISPs Hijack Search Queries

The New Scientist has an excellent article on how ISPs redirect some search queries in order to generate ad revenue. That’s a very early-2000′s sort of business model. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that “Spam King” Stanford Wallace was recently arrested

What Google’s Author Markup Could Mean

The always useful SEO by the Sea dissects a Google pattern related to displaying data about authors, perhaps within search results. This could put Google into direct competition with Disqus, and opens up a new front in Google’s current struggle with Facebook.

A Familiar Thesis

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine worries about our jobless future, also known as the happy recession. We suspect that the future isn’t so much “Jobless” as “Chronically underemployed.” The web has changed the path of least resistance: there are more ways for people to be happy enough without generating measurable, taxable income.

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Google’s copying policy, real names on the web, and a daily deal channel check