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Google Is Publisher, Interest in Yelp Is Proof of Content Designs

For a considerable time, Google (GOOG) management has insisted that the company is not in the media business. The protestations fly in the face of evidence that is only further strengthened by confirmed reports that the company is in talks to acquire Yelp, a local business review site. So how long will it be before the gloves come off and it buys a major paper, magazine publisher, or other sources of content? After all, why dabble in a business when you can really be in it? And when your competitors might be trying to dry up your sources of content?

Google's claims that it's not in the publishing business have long flown in the face of evidence. Here are just a few examples:

  • According to sources who were in position to know, at one point Google had plans to create a number of vertical topic blogs, using journalistic resources. (It may still, but certainly did.)
  • The purchase of YouTube turned Google into possibly the world's largest broadcaster and publisher of video.
  • Google Books is an approach to reprinting out-of-print books on demand and to providing them electronically.
  • Google has developed a number of ways of presenting news content licensed (or not) from a variety of sources.
  • It is huge in the online map business, often replacing paper, and maps have long been a major part of the publishing industry.
  • It is one of the single largest delivery mechanisms for advertisers, and that is at least one description of the media business.
  • A search listing is effectively a private on-demand directory published electronically for a single person. Directories form another of the big segments of publishing.
  • Similar to its efforts in books, Google has launched a digitized magazine stand, in which back issues of many titles are available via browser display.
Whether we're talking about niche publications, republishing existing materials, or assembling information streams into consumer e-media destinations, it's the real business of Google. That's why things like a potential deal between Microsoft (MSFT) and News Corp. (NWS) are such a big problem for Google. Right now the company is overly dependent on the kindness -- intentional or not -- of strangers. It needs to ensure content streams for three reasons:
  1. Google wants a lot of material that uses AdWords, so it helps perpetuate its current cash cow.
  2. It wants the ambiance of being the world's information provider to help push off competition.
  3. Google badly, badly, badly needs to diversify revenue sources. Taking a slice through AdWords is fine, but the more expansive the types of ad revenue, the more it can compete with other companies like Yahoo (YHOO), whose strength is in display ads.
Given that the potential number for a Yelp deal being reported is $500 million, if the story (confirmed by more than one news outlet) is true, it shows just how seriously Google really thinks it's a media company.

Image via stock.xchng user ilco, site standard license.

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