Google’s travel book buyout sparks publisher fears
Google is under fresh scrutiny after the search giant announced a deal to buy out travel guide brand Frommer’s from its owner John Wiley.
According to Google, the Frommer’s content will be integrated with the Zagat restaurant review service it bought for nearly £100 million last year, but the move into content will worry publishers.
Google is already facing competition investigations on both sides of the Atlantic over accusations it favours its own services over rivals.
Google has long been the major source of many content providers’ visitors and further moves into providing, rather than locating, information could prove a concern.
“In certain key areas now, Google has seen the value of having content and how important it is to consumers,” Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, told New York Times. “Frommer’s is even more content-rich.”
Google is perceived as this competitor that has the potential to favour its own search results
Google has said it treats all sites equally, but there remains a perception among some – including those competitors that have sought legal action in the EU and US court – that services owned by Google receive higher positions in its results listings.
“Google is perceived as this competitor that has the potential to favour its own search results,” Sterling said. “That remains very much to be seen, but that’s the narrative they continue to play into.”
Google: no bias
Google says it sends millions of visitors to rival sites every day depending on the relevance of search results, not who owns the content.
“Our goal with local search is to help people find the local information they need — as quickly and easily as possible,” Google said in a statement. “At times, we think the best result is to direct a user to some other site or product, and each day we send millions of customer referrals through our search products.”
However, the move will represent a threat to publishers, according to ebook production company Pressbooks.com, with traditional sectors facing increased pressure.
“Publishers should be worried about it,” said company founder Hugh McGuire told the NY Times. “What’s happening is that we’re going to start seeing a lot more business models around books that are incorporating the internet, and publishers aren’t very keen on embracing that.”