Saturday, April 09, 2005

Search and content convergence

The Internet Stock Blog discusses the implications of Google Q&A, focusing on search engines as answer engines - gateways to proprietary content. Google's strength is its position as gateway, rather than content provider:
    It's better to be a search company moving into content than vica versa, because search will be the gateway to content, and we know from experience that he who controls the gateway...

I'm not as optimistic as ISB. It comes down to the business model - how is Google going to make money off this content? The only model they have right now is AdWords - text ads alongside search results. I'm unconvinced that this model is sustainable. It is very vulnerable to competition and disruption. Some other possibilities:

1. Paid listings in specialized searches. The risk here is betraying the idea of unbiased search results. Google may be able to pull it off without tainting their search results by creating the idea of special categories of answers (separate from search). Google Q&A may fit into such a strategy.
2. Market research service. This may become Google's strongest model in the future. Think about it. All that data they gather on how people use the web can be turned into extremely valuable information. They just need to develop the right analytical tools. Best of all, this doesn't need to compromise the objectivity of their search service.

But this is just speculation. I'm waiting to see if Google will actually move its business model beyond AdWords.