Stories used to abound of small companies finding new markets via search. The Birmingham based chocolate shop selling to Bostonians is one that springs to mind.
But Google's decision to follow Yahoo in allowing rivals to bid on brand names will limit competition and innovation from start-ups and other cash-constrained companies.
Unless brand owners win the daily and hourly battle to stay on top of the key word auctions, they risk leaking customers to rivals. That process suits anyone earning super-normal profits in any given market segment, particularly big brand owners and their agents and introducers of business. Any of these players could not only afford to stay at the top of the bidders' list for their own brand names, but could also choke off competition by winning the auction for their rivals' key words and re-direct the traffic to their own sites. To stay on the whiter side of what is legally a grey area, all the winning bidder on a rival's trade mark really ought to avoid is their rival's trade marks appearing in the search result that in fact promotes the winning bidder's own products or services.
Competition authorities and legal advisers should pay close attention to who bids on the search terms related to market segments where dominance is of particular concern. But it seems unlikely that the authorities, challenger brands or the search engines themselves will have the resources to focus on this battleground, or respond to every complaint. Indeed, the cost of responding to requests to prevent bidding on brand names is possibly the reason that the search engines have dropped their previous restrictions in this area.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Now that I'm "rising 43" (as my children's school might put it) any motivation to keep in shape is critical.
So I'm competing to raise money for Prostate UK again this year in a series of "rowathlons" organised by DB Max.
Rowathlons are triathlons with the swimming leg replaced by a stint on an indoor rower. I find them satisfying to train for because of the variety in the three elements and the need to build gradually towards an event. So I can train all year to avoid the beer belly and still not get stuck in a rut. Oh, and I can also sit down to watch inane daytime television during the rowing sessions, instead of staring at the black line on the bottom of a pool.
Of course, the events themselves are where the rubber hits the road, and you really get to see the results of all the training (and any missed sessions!).
These are niche events, with 100 to 150 competitors - not some giant crowd - and tend to be run at race circuits or parks to avoid the hassle of traffic (and hills!).
So far, there are three events scheduled for this season: