Eric Schmidt, The Wall Street Journal and Personalized Search

Early Friday morning the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece from Eric Schmidt on how Google can help the dying newspaper industry. Later that same afternoon Google announced they were “turning on” personalized search for everyone. While these two events were connected because the occurred on the same date, they are also a clear signal of Google’s direction: going forward.

Let’s examine the introduction from the op-ed piece:

It’s the year 2015. The compact device in my hand delivers me the world, one news story at a time. I flip through my favorite papers and magazines, the images as crisp as in print, without a maddening wait for each page to load. Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. So while I get all the news and comment, I also see stories tailored for my interests. I zip through a health story in The Wall Street Journal and a piece about Iraq from Egypt’s Al Gomhuria, translated automatically from Arabic to English. I tap my finger on the screen, telling the computer brains underneath it got this suggestion right…

The leadership and management at Google are putting their full weight behind backing personalized search. While they are careful to state that you won’t miss anything, they argue that personalized search is their point of differentiation that es them better than the competition. They feel that their algorithm for figuring out what you really want will succeed where so many others have failed.

Despite the fact that I have told Amazon to ignore the John Edwards’ Psychic book I bought for my sister in law as gift years ago, I still get new age related suggestions regularly. Microsoft also tried their hand at guessing user intent with clippy, which was hated by almost everyone. However, with what is probably the single largest concentration of PHD’s anywhere on the planet, there’s no way Google could fail miserably at personalized search…is there? There’s no way they would ever associate little kids with something like sex, dirty dancing, or grinding… is there?


Image via seoroundtable

Now, of course, Google suggest is just a reflection of what people search for, but you would think people who were smart enough to come up with an algorithm that personalizes your search results could implement a simple porn filter for things like this:


Mr Schmidt goes on to talk about advertising and newspapers, and he notes that many subjects aren’t valuable for advertisers…

A typical news search—for Afghanistan, say—may generate few if any ads.

So perhaps we’ll find some well targeted ads are the answer, like say the aflac duck on an article about Anatidaephobia, also known as the fear of ducks…

image via failblog

Or if Mr. Schmidt and Google are correct that personalized targeted ads are the way to go, we can all look forward to the time when our day resembles something out of The Minority Report filled with customized  personal advertising …


Only time will tell if this moment was a bold and decisive step to securing the future…or just another example of  corporate hubris.

photo credit: World Economic Forum

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