Google’s ‘victims’ thriving, despite telling regulators otherwise

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Several of Google’s competitors are playing the victim card to regulators while reporting successes to their investors.

Major travel companies — including Expedia, TripAdvisor and Kayak — have said that Google’s dominance in search adversely affects their business models.

They, along with several other travel companies, Microsoft and Yelp, are petitioning federal and state regulators to rein in Google.

Expedia, for example, says that it is worried about Google’s power as a search engine. The company complained to regulators that it was largely dependent upon search engines for traffic in 2011, but in October 2010, CEO Dara Khrosrowshahi told investors that search traffic is “much less profitable traffic” than direct traffic.

Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said the company had a Google problem in a Senate antitrust hearing last year, but during an earnings call in August, he said that the company experienced 70 percent year-over-year growth in its mobile traffic.

“On average, our mobile app was used on 7.2 million mobile devices per month in the second quarter, up 70 percent year-over-year,” he said.

“Approximately 40 percent of Yelp searches are now conducted on our mobile apps, becoming the majority on weekends,” he said.

TripAdvisor has also logged complaints with the E.U. Commission and the U.S. government against Google, chargin unfair and “anticompetitive practices.”

But according to recent statements by TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, Google is far from a threat to the company.

In a July earnings call, not only did Kaufer think that Google’s Google Places app was not taking traffic away from TripAdvisor, but that it would be even better for the company to shift more resources towards Facebook since it was working out well. He also said that TripAdvisor was the second most popular Facebook app.

Following an interview with TechCrunch in December 2011 when Kaufer voiced concerns over Google’s attempts to move into travel planning, Barclay’s Capital Equity Research said that competition from Google Places may be “overstated” and that the TripAdvisor is “entrenched in the fabric of travel planning.”

As recently as August, Internet analytics company comScore said that TripAdvisor is the most popular travel website.

Kayak’s lobbying group, FairSearch, which also lobbies for several of its other fellow travel sites, professed a worry about its companies not being placed near the top of Google search results.

Seventy-five percent of Kayak’s traffic, however, comes through direct navigation. Only 10 percent of Kayak’s traffic in the first six months of 2012 came from search engines. These numbers are relatively unchanged from November 2010 — prior to Google’s entry into the travel market in the U.S., according to Kayak’s security Exchange Commission filings.

Yelp deferred The Daily Caller to its blog for official company comment on the matter. The blog included a September 2011 post from Stoppelman and his official testimony delivered to the Senate.

Expedia, TripAdvisor and Kayak all did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

FairSearch declined to comment.

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Josh Peterson