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Why the Google FeedBurner deal is bad news for web publishers

May 24th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Google buy FeedBurner for $100 million

According to TechCrunch, Google have acquired FeedBurner for $100 million. The popular RSS management company had been on the Big G radar for some time and it looks like the deal will be complete within the next month.

How long before “Ads by Google” start to appear in everyone’s RSS feeds? How long before you’re not allowed to use alternative RSS revenue streams such as Feedvertising? At what point will RSS subscriber stats start to play a part in the SERPs?

In my opinion this is a bad move for the web publishing community and I’ll tell you why.

As Andy Beard points out, there are positives and negatives in the acquisition. Sure, if Google do integrate RSS conversion stats into Analytics then this would be a good thing but I think the sole purpose for this acquisition is to leverage the FeedBurner Ad Network and squash a potential competitor in their quest for an online advertising monopoly.

An online advertising monopoly? Could this really happen? Maybe not in the strictest sense of the word but it could get to the point where Google control so much of the industry that it’s competitors are left to fight over the scraps from the Big G dinner table.

If you think I’m scaremongering, think again. A study published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Pricewaterhouse Coopers shows that internet advertising revenues in 2006 totalled $16.9 billion in the US alone. Search revenue accounted for 40% of this figure. Peter Petrusky, a director at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, had this to say;

The results for 2006 show the Internet continues to offer marketers the widest spectrum of advertising formats, from search-based text ads to dynamic rich-media and broadband video ads.

YouTube purchase anyone? You think they bought it to look at the funny videos of monkeys sticking fingers up their butts? No. They bought it to tap into the marketing opportunities presented by owning the biggest online video resource.

The report goes on to say that 69% of all online advertising revenue is controlled by ten companies. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? At least ten companies are sharing this $11.6 billion share of the market. Hmmm…if only that were true. According to their own figures, Google advertising revenue for 2006 was $10.4 billion.

Google control 61.5% of all online advertising revenue

If that weren’t bad enough, they reported a 69% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2007 as well as purchasing ad network Doubleclick for $3.1 billion. Add to that Feedburner for a paltry $100 million and you can see that they are aggressively buying out anyone who has the audacity to try to make a dollar online.

Let’s just throw this into the mix. By purchasing FeedBurner, Google can now integrate RSS feed subscriber stats into the algorithm for returning search results. The more subscribers you have, the higher up the results you appear. That all seems fair enough but what if you don’t want to use FeedBurner for your RSS feed? Will you get punished? Will you be banished to the netherworld of the SERPs because you chose to use a different feed management tool?

By purchasing the competition, Google are well on their way to becoming the default partner for web publishers. This can only be bad news. They’ll have complete control over how you build your website, what tools you use, what ads you can display and how much you get paid. If any competition spring up, they’ll either buy them or wipe them out.

I’ve talked about Google being evil before and I’ve got some flak on Digital Point for suggesting that Matt Cutts’ recent post about paid links is more about protecting ad revenues than improving the SERPs. I can’t help but be amazed when anyone can be so blinkered as to think that every move Google make isn’t driven by their desire to keep their share holders happy.

With every new acquisition, Google are taking away more of the viable alternatives available for web publishers. Sure you can find other products but these are diminishing day by day as Google look to either purchase or penalise. Just how long will it be until the whole online experience gets renamed the Googlenet?

They have a product called Google Earth. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

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Tags: Search Marketing

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