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Google searches for Bourne

Bourne_ultimatum Search for "Bourne Ultimatum" on Google (hint: it's a movie) and you'll see, in a prominent blue-shaded box marked "Google Promotion," a link labeled, "Join in the Ultimate Search for Bourne." Clicking on the link takes you to a landing page for a Web-based game whose object is to (drumroll....) promote Google.

What, you thought it was to find Bourne? Well, there is that, too. But Google's primary aim with this effort was to show Hollywood more things it could do -- with Google tools, naturally -- to market its films online. It's a relatively new venture for the search giant, one that focuses not on placing advertisements but on generating content.   

"The win for Google," Douglas Merrill, the company's vice president of engineering, said in an interview, "is more content gets created, and we believe the tools we build offer easy ways to do that. Ultimately our goal is to have everyone who has content build cool interactive tools to engage their users. We don't want to be in the middle. We want to build the tools to allow content owners and creators to do it themselves."

Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that players need a Google account to take part in the Bourne game.

Merrill said that Universal, the studio behind the Bourne movies, didn't hire Google to do this. Instead, the promotion was Google's initiative. Why? Because the basic Google business model is monetizing searches and other online activities, so the more things people have to find and do online, the more money Google can make. Even if the studios use somebody else's mapping or online video tools, Google's search engine and AdSense system can still benefit. As Merrill put is, "More content on the Internet is good for us.... What's good for the Internet is good for Google."

It's also good for Google to partner with content providers, rather than battling them in court over copyrights. On the other hand, it's not clear to me that Google turning over users' email addresses to Universal is "good for the Internet." But Google at least asks for permission to do so, and gives would-be players the chance to sign off before it disclosing anything to the studio.

The picture of actor Matt Damon as Jason Bourne is courtesy of Universal Studios.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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