Thursday, 22 September 2011

Is Search the New Media?

Search engines have elevated certain sites, notably Social Networking sites, Bookmarks and Web 2.0 properties to "authority status". In many cases, Fan Pages will outrank the official website. Done right, bookmarks, fan pages and social profiles help company sites rank well and get found in search results. In effect this makes Marshall McLuhan's, "The Media is the Message", a tangible reality. In other words, say it on a social media site and your message will have more visibility and more impact.

Search Engines are a vital part of the new media; it too is morphing into a far more interactive channel, as we see with maps and pricing options now right in search results. The answer to the question "are search engines the new media?" is not so simple. But look at Google + and ask yourself: where this is heading? Media, I say. Look at Google + Hangouts - a go-to meeting-like option. There a small business can conduct its own impromptu team meetings, seminars, share documents and interact with customers. In this case Google is enabling us to publish and engage, by delivering the tools we need. Recall that the new media is not about broadcasting (see the future of media) but about enabling participation. In this respect Hangouts is an enabler, is it media?, perhaps it will be!

Where will Google draw the line on process? It's moves into shopping, e-commerce and fulfillment on search, is starting to get creepy: booking flights, creating webpages for small business, choosing which hotels it maps, which Online Travel Agents Agents (OTA's) it displays in Google Places. Google Places now takes up the top of the search results, meaning organic search is way down the page. It is getting a little scary and clearly could lead to a realignment of business services. Business as we know it may never be the same if Google takes over website provision and hosting.

I fear that the New Media may displace many small businesses, and that could be evil. But give them some slack, these are early days and Google is not evil. 

I have spent some time with them on online seminars, product reviews and open discussions and i am impressed by the character of its people. These are not tycoons, but rather bright and enthusiastic people who care about what they are doing and the world they might be creating. I believe that Google cares about its bottom line, but it also cares about the little guy and my instinct is that it will build systems for all. That just my instinct and perhaps my hope. Nevertheless we need to be watchful. Innovation and change is rampant and some change may hurt.

We are witness to the birth of the new media. Traditional channels, processes, form and function are all morphing in some way to be relevant in the new age of participation. Search will be more Social and be more interactive, enabling participation. I like using search as a metaphor of the new media because it is interactive and enabling. YOU search; you ask the questions; you select the answers.

Search delivers maps, prices, content and process. It is, like media, supported by advertising. I see it become more and more a media offering rich content to complex queries, including seasonally relevant rates and "personal" packages.

The maps on Google are still limited but look at Bookable-Maps, as seen in the Tourism Marketing of ( These are good examples of the interactivity we will see more of in the digital age of participation. It will be in search. Search will evolve and become more social, it will evolve to answer question of price, availability, shopping and fulfillment.

Google's aim is to deliver a single right answer for every single query by a single person. In other words the answer that I get will often not be the same as the one you get. And that means Google will know an awful lot about you and me, and our preferences and interest at any one particular time.

Google plus with its circle of friends and interest will be a key player in defining these very personal search results. So will social media. Our profiles, bookmarks, friends, business and our activity all make up the index which search engines are accumulating.

Going forward it is important to be prudent in what we do and how we do it and especially how we market.

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