The real news behind the Google and Bing Twitter deals

Yesterday we saw a lot of press and blogosphere attention devoted to deals being made between the two leading search engines, Google and Bing, and leading social media services Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter search deals, while interesting, doesn’t yet merit much beyond a big yawn – we’ve already had decent, if imperfect, search via Summize, which became twitter search. Sure, both Google and Bing can improve this, but still, things like Google Squared are much more innovative.

What is really interesting about the search engine deals are the implications of the business details:

Is twitter being compensated for the indexing and retrieval attention Bing (and Google?) is giving them?

If so, that would seem to set a big precedent (the AP content hosting deal aside). Why shouldn’t other content rich sites not also receive payment from search engines? Newspapers worldwide have been making this point, to no avail, for several years now (The Italian Federation of News Publishers is pressing its case by arguing that Google has a monopoly position).

There are some differences. It would be hard for Google and Bing to argue fair use copyright exception for a tweet when 140 characters are already snippet size – there’s not much sampling to do here. Yet, unlike the case of the newspapers (and their attribution problems aside), twitter’s content is created by the service users – who retain moral, if not legal, copyright to the original work created. Twitter’s trump card (as is also the case with Facebook) with the search engines is that, besides their freshness, tweets are not yet a commodity, something the “quality” news business can’t really say.

Certainly twitter deserves to be compensated for the expense of creating and running the twitter platform. But if indeed twitter is being compensated, every site owner with an xml firehose should be compensated, perhaps on the basis of the click-through model already successfully used by AdSense / AdWords.

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About Sean Carlos

Sean Carlos is a digital marketing consultant & teacher, assisting companies with their Search (SEO + SEA = SEM), Social Media & Digital Media Analytics strategies. Sean first worked with text indexing in 1990 in a project for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since then he worked for Hewlett-Packard Consulting and later as IT Manager of a real estate website before founding Antezeta in 2006. Sean is an official instructor of the Digital Analytics Association and collaborates with the Bocconi University. He is Chairman of the SMX Search and Social Media Conference, 12 & 13 November in Milan. He is also a co-author of the Treccani encyclopedic dictionary of computer science, ICT & digital media. Born in Providence, RI, USA, Sean received Honors in Physics from Bates College, Maine. He speaks English, Italian and German.