Google’s new mobile, social media and cloud storage products have made it more omnipresent than usual. That’s why I was surprised to hear Brian Schmidt, Google’s Americas sales director, say that Google still considered itself a search company.
This seemed a little disingenuous at first, just something Schmidt would say to sooth me and the other Online News Association conference field trippers at Google’s Boston office last week.
But then Schmidt explained that everything Google does is “dependent on users opting in and finding value in the experience.” With so much information available on so many different devices (see my New York Times Room for Debate forum commentary on paying for device-based convenience), Google’s success is based on people making a conscious choice to use Google products to find and link them to what they want.
“Search” means more than people typing keywords in a little box. ”Search” now means “I’m coming to you – and not someone else – to make my life better by finding what I need and connecting me to it.”
Thus, news organizations should be search companies, too. But they’re not going to get there by counting page views and unique visitors. For some news orgs it seems to be a point of pride that the bulk of the visits to their sites start with their all-things-to-all-people home pages. How about defining success with metrics that indicate whether people are finding what they want?