Google’s Travel Empire Swells, Raises Questions

August 13th, 2012 | Bookmark and Share | SUBSCRIBE

Google has entered into an agreement to buy travel book guide Frommer’s, according to CNET. The purchase follows the search giant’s previous acquisitions of restaurant-review firm Zagat and ITA Software, which allowed Google to create Google Flight Search after a lengthy regulatory review.

Not surprisingly, it appears Google is making such purchases to prolifically populate its reviews and places pages. “We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world,” a Google spokesperson told CNET.

Google’s consolidation of travel content calls into question how the company will treat such content in its search results and what that means for competitors.

Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici put it best: “How long can Google be a fair arbiter of all the world’s information when it increasingly has information of its own that it wants to promote?”

Former Google exec Marissa Mayer answered that question a few years back at a conference, saying: “To the degree that we host content, we ultimately have a monetary incentive to drive people to those pages if those pages have ads on it.” (Yes, there’s video.)

And we’re supposed to trust these guys?

As Google expands beyond general search into content development in key search verticals, FairSearch.org encourages government officials to look closely at its ability to use its dominance in search and search advertising to steer users away from competitors in order to keep users on Google’s own pages longer, and the potentially devastating effects that could have on the online economy.