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Advertising funded search engines

January 11, 2007

A post today on John Batelle’s Search Blog – For What It’s Worth references some paragraphs from Larry & Serge’s original paper introducing Google. It’s a point I raise (with a twist) when discussing the difference between Zenbu and the Yellow Pages so it’s nice to see it backed up by Google’s founders. 🙂

Advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

In the era of hard-copy directories advertising funding (and lots of it) was the only feasible way to facilitate the production ,of a directory covering every business, and mass distribution, to every person. The internet greatly simplifies most of the costs of production and distribution so less advertising funding is necessary to support the same product.

Of course pre-web businesses aren’t interested in massively chopping their revenues so they end up charging ridiculous prices for very little return. I haven’t heard many complimentary words about online yellow pages services – from advertisers or users. The search relevance is usually poor and advertising ineffective for both user and advertiser.

Of course I’m not saying Zenbu won’t use advertising funding. It would be silly not to! Imagine this scenario

I’m searching for a nearby Japanese restaurant
Zenbu shows me a highly targeted ad about special deals at local Japanese restaurant available now alongside the natural proximity ordered results.

The advertising is of signifcant utility to the consumer, and I for one would welcome it.

People generally don’t mind advertising, as long as it is targeted and relevant.


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