Google and the Groupon Effect
Yes, I'm bookending the weekend with more Google-Groupon talk, going back to that abundant well where speculation floweth over.
Just days after we learned that Google was looking at snapping up Groupon rivals after missing out on the market leader for local deals, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 24 that Google has hired several hundred sales representatives to call U.S. spas, restaurants and hotels to promote Google's Tags and Boost ad efforts.
Tags cost shops $25 a month for little yellow call-outs in Google search results. Boost lets business owners build online search ads from their Google Places account, which allows shops to list on Google.com and Google Maps.
Why is this interesting? Two reasons. One, it's what Groupon, LivingSocial and others do to successfully get their coupons and deals to local businesses and into consumers hands.
Second, it adds a personal dimension we haven't seen from Google. Once simply a search company, Google has extended to almost every corner of the Internet through the cloud on the algorithms and applications created by engineers.
The software engineers fuel an abundance of Web services, from search to Gmail, productivity and collaboration applications, from massively parallel computer servers and storage arrays to millions of users over the world.
Their work is all rather impersonal and behind the scenes.
Here come the sci-fi metaphors.
We entrust our data to Google and because of this wealth of data and its spread to all corners of the Web, they are the real world version of the Borg, all seeing, all knowing.
But, as I pointed out, the engineers work behind the scenes at Google's office, which are sort of base ships in Battlestar Galactica.
If Google has indeed hired callers and feet-on-the-street salespeople to boost its local service it would mark an extension of the Google brand down to the rest of us earthlings
These sales folks would essentially be the Battlestar Cylons mixing with the rest of the humans, trying to interact with humans manipulate them into buying what they're selling. Or, if you prefer, these salespeople are the Visitors from V.
It's an interesting strategy shift and a sign of just how Groupon and its smaller rivals are pushing the Web audience in new directions.
You could argue that just as Facebook has mightily influenced Google's moves in social, Groupon is guiding Google's moves in local.
Google, once the ultimate Web innovator, has begun to follow the younger, scrappier startups. The Google Borg and its base ships, once dictating Internet moves for the rest of the Web, hunger for new data to feast on.