NYT Runs Quack, Self-Serving Anti-Google OpEd

There is a quack, self-serving, and silly search-related OpEd in Monday’s NY Times that would be amusing, if it weren’t so indelibly dumb. In it the founder of a company, Foundem, in the search business alleges that search company Google should be investigated and forced to do a better job of highlighting firms like his.

Gosh, what a shocker. Someone in search with minimal web traffic — Compete says Foundem gets a little less web traffic than The Fortune Cookie Chronicles does, which is to say around 1,700 a month — wants someone in search with a lot of web traffic, Google, to send his company buckets of visitors. Amazing.

The OpEd goes downhill from there. We get a litany of silly complaints, like the idea that Google doesn’t innovate, that it just buys stuff from others, and that Google’s Maps and other products have hurt other companies. Yeesh. I’ll say this really slowly: Consumers want products that work together, simplify our lives, and solve problems. For this nitwit to want to throw us back to a world where we need point products — maps here, directions there, product search there, email over there, etc. — as some sort of full-employment act for me-too companies that can’t get web traffic on their own merits is batshit nuts.

Of course, there is a second level of stupid to this piece, and that goes to the NYT itself. It took until the fourth paragraph of the piece until we find out that the OpEd author is, you know, conflicted in that he himself runs a search company (albeit one with negligible traffic). Not only that, he has an axe to grind, as  he goes on in paragraph four to arm-wavingly allege that Google "disappeared" his site from its results.

Really? Google went out of its way to make a tiny product search company in the U.K. disappear? That would be a great story if true (and one that the NYT still should have disclosed at the OpEd outset).

Trouble is, Google doesn’t "disappear" other much larger product search companies, as a quick search for "canon prices" will show you. Up pops shopper.cnet.com, pricegrabber.com, and so on, as well as, of course, Google’s own product search site. And no sign of Foundem.

A conspiracy though? Disappeared? No. As a critical piece in Econsultancy makes clear, Foundem’s traffic troubles are mostly its own. To Google, Foundem’s collection of pages looks more like a link directory, the sort of search spam that a good search engine should ignore, not highlight. The product data on its sub-pages are pulled from merchant feeds, with vanishingly few reviews or other useful, fresh content that Google’s search bots like to slurp.

Here is a closing quote from the Econsultancy piece on the subject of why Foundem does poorly in Google:

“I have to wonder whether the fact that Foundem apparently continues to rank well in Bing and Yahoo isn’t in fact a perfect example of why those sites currently struggle to manage 10% market share between them."

Nicely put.

So, let’s summarize: The NY Times has run a silly editorial by a self-interested search company founder who would like his site to get more traffic, but hasn’t gone to the trouble of building something useful. The only scandal I see here is that apparently NY Times OpEds over the holidays are vetted by malnourished monkeys.

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