Partnership-Palooza! But Do Any of Them Matter?

My inbox was inundated today with talk of new partnerships. Obviously, the search engines are rushing to fill up their dance cards (and when was the last time anyone used a dance card? Maybe it’s time we put that saying to rest.)

What’s interesting about these is the importance of sheer number of users in various online communities. The most travelled intersections of the webs are beginning to look to each other for obvious synergies, trying to stake out a larger slice of online interaction. It’s a bit like an online land grab.

Yahoo and eBay

This is a pretty straightforward swap. Yahoo can show it’s ads to eBay’s 75 million users, and in return, Yahoo will help bolster eBay’s defences agains Google Base, which is seen as a major future threat to the auction based marketplace. Me thinks this threat might be a lot more bark than actual bite, as Hitwise’s Bill Tancer points out in the linked article.

Google and MSN and MySpace

This one’s still in the rumor category. Apparently, MySpace is the single biggest referrer to Google, accounting for 8.7% of its traffic, according to Hitwise (nice job grabbing press mentions Bill!). Apparently, MSN is also sniffing around MySpace, and they probably have things to prove after being beat out with AOL by Google. This one is probably more defensive than strategic for Google, who would hate to lose almost 9% of their traffic to a competitor. On the other side, I would think the motivation is huge for MSN, who have to start turning around their declining marketshare to hang on til the release of Vista. The hope with Vista is that tighter integration of search into apps and OS will immediately bolster marketshare.

Meanwhile, MySpace is booming, with no end in sight. They experienced 1000% growth in users last year, becoming the most visited property online. And it’s all about the numbers.

Associated Press and Topix

The last partnership isn’t really a partnership. Topix.net is a search engine that will work with Associated Press to try to enhance links to the lead source of a news story. The problem is that when stories go out on the wire, they’re picked up by other papers and the news engines don’t differentiate between them. The paper that breaks the story wants credit as the original source. Topix will enhance the links to the paper that’s been identified as the source.

There’s one flaw in this strategy. Who the hell is Topix? Nobody uses them to find news. People use Yahoo…26 million of them. People use CNN, about 24 million. They’re the number one and two sources of news (finally, one area where Google isn’t number one!). Going down the list, Topix ranks 29th, with 2.7 million visitors. So, all together now, a collective yawn as we say, “Who cares?” Again, the importance of visitors, or lack of them, is painfully apparent.

The so called partnership begins to make more sense when you know that Topix is controlled by three newspaper publishers, Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune. So it’s not so much a partnership as a directive.

It just shows, popularity is the only currency that matters online. If you have visitors, you matter.

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