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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Google Premium

Posted by direwolff on August 7, 2006

There’s an article on BetaNews about “Google Indexing Subscription Content“. My first thought was “wow, this could be tough on Alacra‘s Alacra Store business”, but then I thought further about it and realized that Google hasn’t exactly barrelled down all of the competitors in each of the businesses they entered after the AdWords/AdSense biz models. They’ve come out with lots of stuff, but not many have really taken off as expected. Sure, there have been some good successes like Google Maps and Gmail, but these are offset by Orkut and GoogleTalk’s lack of success. Having said that there’s more to succeeding than the technology applied to the problem. There are issues around user interfaces and context that may also help a great deal and which I’m not sure Google will have addressed with their Google Premium offering.

This brings me to a post I made a few days ago, where I specifically discussed that Google’s search innovation was actually a sorting innovation that does not fare as well in enterprises behind their firewalls. Pagerank, and the subsequent enhancements to it, really address the ordering of the results from a search, as a means of determining relevance. Now when we consider premium (read “paid for”) content, relevance is extremely important, far more so than in searches of non-premium content.

When one searches through premium content, keyword matching is as weak a means of finding what you’re looking for as it was with the early search engines on the Internet. The very reason AltaVista, Inktomi, and later Google, rose to prominence is because each at their time had figured out a way to enhance the relevance of the results presented to the searcher. With premium content, unlike the freely accessible content, the number of links to a document does not implicitly make it more relevant on the basis of a keyword search. Hence, the pagerank model will not work as well here. More importantly, consider how often you do a search on Google, Yahoo! or Ask and find yourself still having to look down a few more pages to find what you were actually looking for. This, after clicking on several of the results to see if they indeed addressed your need. Well, with premium content, you’re not likely to start buying all of these documents or reports or what have you, in order to see if the keyword match addressed the issue you were researching. Meaning search is clearly missing here and keyword matching is simply not a sufficient solution here.

It’s with this thought that I think Alacra is still in good shape. When users go to Alacra, the context is set and it’s not serendipitous. As well, different content providers have different rules about the use and access to their content which Alacra supports and helps them enforce. Alacra also provides some nice basic search tools, that while they may still not address meaning, enable the type of premium content to be more easily identified. Having said this, the Alacra team should actively continue exploring better search tools for their users as this will also be an important point of differentiation.

So, while it’s not to say that Google may not get better at these sort of things, in addition to begin addressing better methods for search, it doesn’t feel like they will have licked these problems for some time which leaves plenty of runway for the Alacras of the world to keep on chugging and develop their sweet spot.

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