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Google As Publisher...
They might prefer to use different labels (so as to minimize fear in the marketplace & slow down regulators), and they might claim that aggregate statistics control the investments & thus they are not really publishers, but they plan on skimming a big piece off of the top of many big markets.
AdWords was just the start!
Videos, maps & product search...look how Google self-deals in each while managing to call it a value added feature (or some such).
If Google collects data, hosts data, sorts data, recommends personalized consumption habits, and then makes small investments in new content from proven past performers (and then give them a bit of stealth promotion on their network)...how is it possible for Google to lose money? (Outside of lawsuits)?
Google can claim they are "democratizing" media while showing a string of successful partnerships based on investing using real time data that nobody else as access to. Meanwhile if you are a publisher they are gutting your business model through paying people to snag your content and wrap it in their ads, while they also redirect user attention to the companies and acts they have invested in.
"One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try and predict the stock market... and then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that." - Eric Schmidt, Google CEO
Note that there was no moral debate on the table. Their only internal limitation to setting up a hedge fund and swaying the markets to increase the profits of their trades would be that they thought it was illegal.
How much of the online ecosystem can Google consume before publishers promote other views of the web?
One way to fight this sort of strategy is Yahoo!'s sell or outsource everything but the logo strategy. It increases short term margins, but in the longrun it makes one that much more vulnerable. Google can always buy the partner of choice and then ride off the free promotion & validation that the acquisition gained from earlier partnerships. Sure adding more noise to a noisy market can bring in eyeballs, but fleeting ones. Death by a thousand compromises.
The other is to work in markets too small for Google to be interested in. Or to define & create a new vertical, like Zynga did. Even with as shady as Zynga's founder is, longterm that company is in a better position than Yahoo! is.