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Coronavirus domain winners, Google’s day in front of Congress and revenue sharing: What we read this week (7/31)

Did you watch Wednesday’s antitrust congressional hearing with Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook? We were glued to our computer screens for the lengthy, often dry, sometimes dramatic back and forth that lasted longer than it should’ve. And it failed (in our opinion) to dig deep into some of the most pressing topics facing the United States and Silicon Valley today.

More on that later.

Without further ado, here’s what we read this week.

The domains and platforms that gained during Coronavirus

Analysts over at Search Metrics dove into data from Google US/UK, Google Trends and across several topic areas including: the stock market, travel and economic issues, to suss out which platforms and formats won big since the Coronavirus pandemic began.

The big takeaway: Audiences gravitate toward video (particularly on YouTube) for information related to the topics above. YouTube had an outsized percentage of Top 10 organic desktop SERP rankings across most categories, and always appeared in the top 3.

Our thoughts: YouTube’s competitiveness on the SERPs has been a hot topic lately, following The Wall Street Journal’s story a couple of weeks ago.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai didn’t field any questions about YouTube’s rankings on Google. Questions about YouTube mostly focused on the company’s advertising and content moderation policies.

Google increasingly offering Google-centric results

Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin at The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on technology and its impact on society, looked at more than 15,000 search queries and found that Google “devoted 41 percent of the first page of results on mobile devices to its own properties and what it calls ‘direct answers,’ which are populated with information copied from other sources”.

In other words, a lot of real estate on the SERPs is dedicated to Google’s own modules and products.

Other findings:

  1. 1 out of every 5 searches they conducted didn’t contain a link to an outside website on the first screen.
  2. In a search for “myocardial infarction” Google relayed four in-house features before displaying search results by WebMD, Harvard University and Medscape.

You can read The Markup’s methodology here.

Our thoughts: This is the kind of behavior that’s put Google Search in hot water with regulators the past several years. Representative David Cicilline D-RI, Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Law Chair, got to this point during a round of questioning on Wednesday: “Isn’t there a fundamental conflict of interest between serving users who want to access the most relevant information and Google’s business model which incentivizes Google to sell ads and keep users on it’s own site?”

Watch the exchange with Pichai here:

The Markup’s analysis is thorough and the story is worth a read. However, Google doesn’t agree that the publication’s methodology is sound, but you can judge for yourself.

Australia may force Google, Facebook to share revenue with media

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a draft of its news media bargaining code on Friday, making Australia the first country in the world to require Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news content.

The draft legislation sets up a system in which media companies can collectively bargain and negotiate with Google and Facebook over payments for news content.

WhatsApp (Facebook) and YouTube (Google) are not included.

This is the latest turn of the screw in the ongoing push and pull between Australian government regulators and the major tech companies. Last year the ACCC found that Google and Facebook were eating away at advertising revenue that helps support news organizations.

You can read the code here.

Our thoughts: Not to be too flippant, but this was bound to happen. Google and Facebook have long been under the microscope by regulators across the world.

Representative Jerry Nadler, D-New York and the Judiciary Committee Chair, briefly mentioned Google’s affect on U.S. newspapers during Wednesday’s hearing. Unfortunately, his point was muddled and cut short due to time constraints.

Newspapers in the U.S. have been bleeding ad revenue, subscribers and journalists for years. Google and Facebook have, to their credit, aided journalism recently with new features and grant programs. But no amount of increased visibility or grant money can replace the ad revenue siphoned away from local and national papers.

Google testing “for context” section

Barry Schwartz (whom we recommend you follow on Twitter) reported a Twitter user stumbled across an interesting new feature Google may be testing in top stories: for context.

For the record, Schwartz couldn’t replicate the user’s screenshots.

Anyway, it’s worth taking a look. If something comes of it then news organizations would have another spot in which to rank content.

5 accounts to follow this week:


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