Yesterday AOL shook up the market for search services, naming Google as its new partner for both editorial (i.e., "pure") and paid search results. Google displaces AOL partners Inktomi (editorial) and Overture (paid) in a transition that begins now and continues over the summer.
All the usual suspects carried this story, and the level of coverage was high. Most reporters relied on quotes and insight from the principals of Google, Inktomi, and Overture, but some -- such as the New York Times -- delved deeper with analysis by specialty organs such as Search Engine Watch.
If you read just one article on AOL's search switcheroo, make it the one by AP writer Michael Liedtke (carried in the Nando Times and other outlets). Liedtke served up cogent analysis of the way branding plays into the market for search results. Liedtke said that unnamed analysts believe that Google will lose its contract with Yahoo when it expires in June, because Yahoo fears direct competition from Google. The reporter quoted an Inktomi manager speculating that similar fears keep MSN from using Google search results.
InternetNews ran early coverage of AOL's announcement and followed up with a piece on the impact on Overture, which unlike Google is a public company, and a profitable one. (The Wall Street Journal probed Google's supposed plans to go IPO soon.) Overture started out life in the Idealab incubator as GoTo.com, and its bid-for-search-placement model has come to dominate the market for paid search results. InternetNews' Pamela Parker frowned at the fickle investors who drove Overture's stock down 36 percent yesterday, despite the company's upward revision in its earnings outlook, AOL or no.
Search Engine Watch's free coverage (the site offers more details for paying members) noted the AOL deal's impact on Inktomi, an angle on which most of the major outlets passed. The New York Times' David F. Gallagher ended his piece with a note of caution for Google. Gallagher picked up rumblings among Web site owners of worry over Google's increasing dominance of the search cosmos. The reporter had probably found the AOL thread on WebMaster World -- one poster there expressed concern over the "eggs all in one basket syndrome." Some sources whispered "monopoly," but don't expect Google in Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's courtoom anytime soon. - Keith Dawson
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