Google Acquires Frommer’s Travel Guide, Causes Stir About Content Bias

August 22, 2012

On August 10th Google paid roughly 23 million to acquire Frommer’s travel guides from Wiley & Sons. Now you may be wondering, “So Google’s buying more stuff. Why should I care?” Well, this purchase is a big sign that Google plans to continue pushing unique content into its search results.

Wiley’s announcement stated that they’ve entered into an agreement and will sell all of its travel assets, including the Frommer’s brand, to Google. Google stated that it believe that Frommer’s quality and credibility will be a great addition to its Zagat team, which is revolutionizing its reviews in the Google+ local search results.

Google’s Shopping Spree a Threat to Yelp

By combining Frommer’s with Zagat, Google is making it very clear that it is building its own robust local reviews platform, piece by piece. Of course, this puts Google in direct competition with Yelp. In fact, Yelp’s stock fell almost $6 after the announcement.

Yelp is the only one suspicious of Google’s new acquisition. Consumer Watchdog is calling the FTC to stop it too. There is growing concern that Google is building an Internet monopoly. Some are claiming that Google is building a search engine that is biased towards its own content creation. And that since Google is the market share giant of search — nearly 70% of all US searches are performed on Google — some are worried that Google is creating an unfair marketplace.

Is Google Being Unfair to Third Party Content Creators?

It depends who you are, and it depends how you define fairness. Is Google creating a competitive advantage that the likes of Yelp can’t overcome? Probably, but that’s capitalism. Nothing is stopping Yelp or anyone else from creating the world’s best search engine. Google wasn’t always Google. Remember Yahoo? Google built their empire by creating the best product. If they can leverage that success to expand its empire…that’s just smart business.

The real question is whether Google is tarnishing its search engine’s reputation as the ultimate tool in organizing the world’s information. Are they really organizing the world’s information or are they just promoting their own properties?

It would be naive to think Google won’t be biased toward showing its own content over others. As Watchdog pointed out, there is a distinct conflict when you’re both a search provider and a content provider. Can Google be a fair distributor of the world information when it has more and more of its own information to promote?

Whether the FTC will take action or not remains to be seen. But for now Google continues to expand its business model, and become a bigger force across various aspects of online marketing.

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