Q4 2014 & Q1 2015 Quick Links Part 6 (Google, Search Engines, Antitrust)

Photo credit: 3D Quick Link Crossword // ShutterStock

Photo credit: 3D Quick Link Crossword // ShutterStock

The big news this morning is that the European Commission sent a Statement of Objections to Google. Other links from the past few months, many of them related to this development.


* Mistakenly released FTC Staff Report on its Google antitrust investigation. Marketing Land: Highlights Of The FTC Staff Report On Google & Antitrust Issues. Related blog post. Over two years later, we know the FTC made the right call. Google’s strong competitive position in web search is being eroded by mobile–just as we thought it would.

* Reuters: “Germany’s biggest news publisher Axel Springer has scrapped a bid to block Google from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, saying that the experiment had caused traffic to its sites to plunge.” Search Engine Land: German Publishers To Google: We Want Our Snippets Back.

What lessons did we learn from Germany’s mistake? Spain apparently learned the wrong one: Google News shut down in Spain–and de-indexed the newspapers worldwide–in response to ancillary copyright for indexing snippets. The Spanish newspaper publishers immediately freaked out.

* Martin v. Google: Google beats a challenge to its search indexing on First Amendment grounds. Complaint. Related blog post.

* So much to say about Project Goliath! How much do the movie studios hate/fear Google? A lot. Techdirt: Leaked Emails Reveal MPAA Plans To Pay Elected Officials To Attack Google. Google’s response: The MPAA’s Attempt to Revive SOPA Through A State Attorney General. Google’s lawsuit against Mississippi AG Jim Hood. Ars Technica: Hollywood v. Goliath: Inside the aggressive studio effort to bring Google to heel. WaPo: Why Hollywood is going after Google over prescription drugs. TorrentFreak: “After delivering a major blow to torrent sites during October, Google must’ve thought the MPAA would be pleased. Instead, however, the MPAA issued a ‘snarky’ press release. According to a leaked email, the press release so infuriated Google’s top brass that the company ended cooperation with the MPAA.”  Techdirt: Whether Or Not Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Is In Hollywood’s Pocket, He Sure Doesn’t Understand Free Speech Or The Internet

* Google shuts down engineering office in Russia.

* Recorder: Post-its, Privilege Collide in Suit Against Google.


* NY Times: “American tech companies have long suspected that Europe is out to get them. They might be right.” Follow-up article.

* Reuters asks if European antitrust regulators are being gamed by Google’s American competitors

* NY Times: European Commission Asks Companies to Go Public With Google Complaints

* NY TImes: Apple Wins Decade-Old Suit Over iTunes Updates. Antitrust class action lawsuits are often a lousy solution to the perceived problem.

* US DOJ: “According to the charge, Topkins and his co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of certain posters sold in the United States through Amazon Marketplace. To implement their agreements, the defendant and his co-conspirators adopted specific pricing algorithms for the sale of certain posters with the goal of coordinating changes to their respective prices and wrote computer code that instructed algorithm-based software to set prices in conformity with this agreement.”

Search Engines

* Robert Hof of Forbes summarizes a new Google eye-tracking study by Gord Hotchkiss:

Now, Hotchkiss says, the eye tracking shows we do an initial scan of the entire page very quickly–a quick vertical scan down the left side. This is to look at the various sections shown by category headings Google has gradually added–local, maps, news, and the like. There’s less horizontal scanning than there used to be–possibly a transference of mobile scrolling behavior back to the computer browser–so people are more quickly finding the chunk of information that’s most relevant to them and spending more time there.

In fact, it now takes people on average about eight or nine seconds to find the result they want, down from 14 to 15 seconds in the previous study. “We’re scanning more real estate but finding what we want almost twice as quickly,” Hotchkiss said. That’s testament to Google’s improving ability to divine what we want, he added.

In any case, the change has huge implications for search marketing. Because people are scanning the top three or four results in the category they want, it’s not nearly as critical for a company to capture the very top search result…

* Reuters: “A little-noticed change in the way Google selects search results has allowed company statements to top the list of news links shown when users search for information on businesses.”

* Search Engine Land: Report: Yahoo Search Losing Firefox Users Who “Switchback” To Google

* GigaOm: Microsoft quietly buries Scroogled site

* Cheval Intern. v. SmartPak Equine, LLC, 2015 WL 798968 (D. S.D. Feb. 26, 2015):

Although the court may take judicial notice of factual information found on a website, where the material sought to be noticed is merely the contents of a Google search result, more caution is required. The contents of a disputed Google search result in this case should be treated no more favorably than the disputed contents of a hardcopy newspaper or periodical, that is, only as evidence of what was in the public realm at the time….The court acknowledges its lack of technical expertise regarding the algorithms and crawling and indexing techniques used by search engine providers like Google or other third-party websites like those of Cheval or SmartPak, when providing keyword search results. For these reasons, prudence cautions the court to hesitate before “determining that [the search results and screenshots are] beyond controversy.”