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8/7/2006
05:15 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
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All The News That's Fit To Goog . . . Er, Search For

The last seven days were hopping for Google watchers. Indeed, judging from the company's frenetic pace, it won't be long before Stanford has an endowed chair of Googleology--which has as much chance of being located in the law school or sociology department as in the computer science building.

The last seven days were hopping for Google watchers. Indeed, judging from the company's frenetic pace, it won't be long before Stanford has an endowed chair of Googleology--which has as much chance of being located in the law school or sociology department as in the computer science building.My favorite item involves fallout from last month's news, which just about every media outlet picked up on, that the word "google" had entered Merriam-Webster's dictionary as a verb. Here's InformationWeek's take on that story, for example.

For some reason, however, Google's lawyers took specific umbrage with The Washington Post's rather tongue-in-cheek reporting and sent the writer their standard but still delicious letter accusing him of "genericide." Yes, that's a real word, referring to what happens when a business loses control of its trademark.

Among other things, Google's letter--which has been making the rounds of various legal departments for years--suggests the right way to use its name. Appropriate: "I used Google to check out that guy I met at the party." Inappropriate: "I googled that hottie." Aside from proving Google lawyers have tin ears when it comes to crafting dialogue, it showed they have an even poorer understanding of journalists' psychology, as of course the writer in question, Post staff reporter Frank Ahrens, gleefully posted portions of the letter on the paper's Web site over the weekend.

Doug Edwards, who until 2005 was director of consumer marketing and brand management for Google, in his blog called Google "silly" in its attempt to fight the natural evolution of a living language. (He shamefacedly admitted he had an active role in forging this and other like letters.) It is, he wrote, "about as effective as standing in a rising river and yelling at the rain to stop falling."

A case in point: Google "googled," and you come up with 6.6 million pages. Google "googling," and you get 14.4 million. That's a lot of horses out running around loose after the barn doors have been closed.

Moreover, as Edwards pointed out, such missives make Google's "don't be evil" motto come off like a great big "kick me" sign on its corporate backside.

The dangers of Google losing control of its trademark have been analyzed ad infinitum, but best and most succinctly by Intellectual Asset Management Magazine in its June/July 2004 issue.

Meanwhile, Google's share of the search engine market continues to rise. Over the past month, more than 60% of U.S.-based Internet searches were executed from the Google home page.

I'd call this good news for Google--and further evidence that the brand is alive and kicking. I understand the fear of brand dilution. But I don't know a single person who says "googled" when they really mean "yahooed." Or "microsofted." Or "asked." To google means to use Google. Sounds like a marketing home run to me.

Other recent items googled for your ogling pleasure:

  • A Google executive took the stage at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers to definitively proclaim that--ala shades of Richard Nixon--he was not a music salesman. Apparently, members of the audience did everything but get down on their knees and weep tears of gratitude.
  • Closing just one chapter in the multivolume novel that constitutes Google's ongoing fracas with copyright holders, Google announced it had resolved a dispute with the Associated Press where it would now pay to use its headlines and photographs. How this will impact other pending lawsuits filed by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and other old media organizations remains unclear.
  • One item that on the surface appeared only indirectly related to Google really strikes at the heart of how the company is impacting businesses far removed from the search engine industry. The Washington Post, New York Sun, and Daily Okahoman all signed up with online news aggregator Inform to deliver content from a broad range of Web-based news and blogs to their Web sites. Designed specifically to help traditional media companies stop the flow of online advertising dollars to Google and Yahoo, the service publishes links from around the Web in a box embedded within a story written by a newspaper's own staff. This eliminates the need for readers to leave the site to google--yes, there's that verb again--the subject independently via Google's own home page, thus hopefully keeping those all-important ads nearby.
  • And there were other items of note. Google joined an industry group that will set guidelines for identifying invalid or fraudulent clicks, signed a deal with XM Satellite Radio to deliver targeted advertising to XM Satellite Radio's audience, started using information provided by the Stop Badware Coalition to warn users when search results could lead them to sites containing dangerous malware, and signed a deal with MTV to distribute its music videos to Web sites and blogs.

    Are you a Google watcher? What have been the most interesting items coming out of the offices of Mountain View, California's favorite corporate son (daughter) recently? Let me know by responding here.

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