Copyrights settlement for Google Book Search may create new ad opportunities

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Google seeking new content revenues in downturn
Google seeking new content revenues in downturn

As part of last year's class-action settle­ment with groups of authors and publishers, Google has launched a worldwide print legal notice campaign targeting owners of book copyrights. Per the settlement, Google had to inform copyright holders in a way that was considered by the courts to be “reason­able and practicable,” which basically means buying a print ad in every country.

The settlement followed a lawsuit, which alleged that Google's plan to digitize books violated the rights of copyright holders.

Due to the size of the undertaking — by some reports Google is shelling out $8 mil­lion on the print and online campaign as part of the $125 million settlement — the question of monetization arises. How much of a dif­ference will a robust Google Book Search make to Google's overall market share? “When someone goes to Google, they've got a question in mind and an answer they need,” Jennie Johnson, a Google spokesper­son told DMNews. “We don't really care where [on the Web] that answer comes from. If it comes from a book, great; if it comes from a Web page, fine.”

The focus, she pointed out, is provid­ing a great user experience, and to do that, Google needs to bring more of the world's information — including books — from offline to online. “This will better our search engine,” she says.

“The story here is that Google is actively exploring ways to monetize any addition­al landscape,” says Mark Simon, VP of industry relations for digital agency Didit. “Google needs new outlets beyond the ‘tra­ditional' search results page, particularly in light of [Google CEO] Eric Schmidt's recent comments that Google is ‘not immune' to the current economic downturn.”

There's no compelling opportunity for advertisers aside from ads within paid search results — yet, according to James McQuivey, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

“To have an impact on book reading, Google would have to have a way to con­nect the book search experience to the book reading experience — and reading would likely be paid, not ad-supported,” he says.

McQuivey cited a parent of a teenager searching for parenting advice online in which Google's natural search returns an excerpt from a parenting book within Book Search. “A whole host of publishers and services would want to show up not only in the [natural] search results, but in the ads around the results. When it's time to offer you a book, retailers and publishers alike — including Amazon — would like to be able to say, ‘click here to queue this book up in your eBook reading list,'” he says. “That's a very focused kind of advertising oppor­tunity that we'll eventually have.”

This will not happen for some time, McQuivey notes, because publishers are “still wary of Google, and Google has no connection to [the] Kindle or any other convenient reading solution.”

Sponsorship is possible, says Mark Schwartz, managing partner of Steak.

“Marketers could offer to sponsor a par­ticular author, title or genre that matches their core audience,” Schwartz says. “That sponsorship could then allow Amazon or Google to offer the download to the con­sumer for free, and the marketer will get ad placement throughout the e-book.”

He likened the idea to the Hulu model, where advertisers can embed ads within videos. Beyond full sponsorship, Schwartz says, advertisers might sponsor aspects of a book or periodical that best matches their offering to a consumer's interest.

Google obviously is not the only com­pany getting into the e-book trade. There's the new Kindle 2, the iPod Touch and now, even the iPhone has a Kindle application.

Google has looked at running pay-per-read or pay-per-download, ideas that split income with copyright holders of download­ed books, says Simon, and could compete with the Kindle and the iPhone reader.

“Just as important, though, is the fact that a service like this may lay the groundwork for revenue sharing in other media — like partnerships between Google News and the news sources it tracks, a move that would help both Google and the ailing news busi­ness,” Simon says.

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