So Yahoo acquired Overture. Who’s Overture, you ask? Well, just take a look at the price Yahoo paid for it – $1.63 billion dollars, and you’ll see right away how important this is to Yahoo. Quick lesson: whenever you do a search on any search engine worth its salt, you’ll generally see 3-5 “sponsored links” and they are usually provided by Overture. These are links that advertisers bid for against each other to get ranked at the top and the advertiser pays Overture for every time you, the web surfer, click on those results.
Initially, Overture was heartily laughed at. Surely nobody would click on advertisements, right? Wrongo. Because a) the links are offers targeted to the search you are performing, b) they look exactly like any other search result and c) they were placed in the top slots, people clicked like there was no tomorrow and the money started flowing like Larry King’s alimony payments. Overture swiftly made themselves the number one revenue generator in the search business by placing those links on AOL, MSN Yahoo, Earthlink, Lycos and Ask Jeeves, among others.
Now here comes Google and they’re no dummies. They realize that you can’t sustain a business by just offering search results, so they launch their own sponsored links products, leverage their popular technology and they’re off to the races. Google steals business from Overture by landing AOL, Earthlink and Ask Jeeves in 2002 and a subtle panic button was hit by Overture. So while you may not have ever heard of Overture, this was the shot heard ’round the search world when Yahoo sucked up Overture. Now Yahoo owns their own sponsored links technology and it sets up what should be a very interesting battle between Google and Yahoo. The best part: Yahoo uses Overture’s sponsored links, but Google “non-paid for” search results. Think that will last long? No way, my friends.
The wild card here is Microsoft. They’re running thier MSN portal which gets a huge number of searches. They do not own their own sponsored links technology, nor do they own their own “non-paid” search results. They outsource it all. Look for that to change, and right quick. Don’t be surprised if they make a bid for Google, either. The burning question is: will Google sell out to MSN? I doubt it, but one never knows. Google knows that others are very quickly catching up to them on the technology front, so they very well could decide that the infusion of large gobs of cash could do them some good. Or Google could just launch their highly anticipated IPO and get some money through a stock offering, but then they’d have to open their accounting books for Wall Street and everyone else to pick through. That might not be a good option because Google’s privacy and mystique is arguably it’s best asset right now. Perhaps even a better asset than their technology and people, although the technology and people got them that mystique in the first place.
So what will happen? Who knows. I think Curt Schilling said it best during the 2001 World Series when he described the aura of the seemingly unstoppable New York Yankees: “Aura and mystique are just dancers in a nightclub.”
It was Schilling’s team that beat the Yankees in the World Series. Get what I’m saying?
Song now playing: The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”