Reuters is reporting that “Google Inc is partnering with major music labels to launch a new feature to make it easier to discover, sample and buy songs on the search engine”.
The notion, according to the usual suspects “people familiar with the plan”, is that under this new scheme music will be streamed directly onto Google pages.
Of particular concern is the proposal that alongside the songs you’ll find a handy “buy” button, taking you to “a variety of different sites, including Amazon.com and Apple Inc’s iTunes Music Store”. This will, Reuters reports, “help reduce the number of steps fans need to purchase their favorite songs or albums.”
It’ll also potentially reduce the revenues of music resellers other than the favoured few in partnership with Google.
We don’t want to be alarmist, but what happens next if this new “buy” feature turns out to be highly profitable for Google and its preferred partners?
Will we see a hazardous new direction for Google, where the corporate titan turns its search pages into ecommerce BUY NOW displays, in direct competition with advertisers and with anyone else who allows/encourages Google to index their site?
It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where a search on Google (the sherlock of choice for most of us) for, say, “PlayStation 4″ delivers a prominently displayed “Buy” button in conjunction with Wal-Mart or Best Buys, leaving other consumer electronics outlets competing for the crumbs on pages 2 through infinity.
We’ve already heard, via the Frankfurt Book Fair, that Google is gearing up to launch its own online bookstore, “Editions”. Once that facility is up and running, Google’s shareholders would have every reason to expect that any book title available for sale via Editions would be prominently displayed (perhaps with that dreaded “Buy” button) in response to relevant Google searches. That’s hardly going to endear the Googleplex to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or about a trillion other booksellers around the world.
We could even see a whole new tier of Google advertisers/partners emerge — those who are willing to bid for access to the Buy button for their choice of keywords. It would certainly make a rich new revenue stream for Google (whilst somewhat devaluing AdWords as an advertising currency).
We are heartened by the Google corporate mantra, “do no evil”. But we also remember the words of Google co-founder Larry Page: “The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”
That could mean giving a big fat BUY button to those consumers who can articulate exactly what they want (by brand name, rank and serial number).
Should we be afraid?