Search May Not be Sexy Anymore, But It Pays the Bills

First published August 5, 2010 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Is it just me, or is search getting boring? It’s been months since we’ve had a good, ruckus-raising tidbit to get our teeth into. The Bing-Yahoo integration? That’s the best you can do? Yawn.

Is it me…

I suspect that it is, in part anyway, me. To be honest, I haven’t been much of a “Search Insider” lately. In the past few months, precious little of my time has been spent pondering the industry. I’m way behind on industry news and haven’t attended a search conference or event for a few months. My days have been full with the busy-ness of running a business. I’ve had other things on my mind.

My first Search Insider column ran six years ago and since then, I’ve written 276 columns, counting this one.  That’s a little over 220,000 words — most of them at least tangentially relevant to search. Perhaps the well has just run dry.

Or is it search?

But then again, perhaps it’s the industry.  Maybe search just isn’t that sexy anymore. Remember the day when Google was going to change the world? Remember how marketers just couldn’t wrap their heads around this “search” thing? Back then, I could get righteously indignant and bang out a column wondering when the world would “get” how important this it. But now, they’ve got it. It seems silly to proselytize search now that Google has become a verb. Search has come, has conquered, and we’ve all moved on. Again…yawn.

Sure, there are always new search entries in the marketplace, but when’s the last time somebody used the words Google Killer? Is it because Google is invincible, or is it just that we really don’t care anymore? Even Aaron Goldman, who surely has squatter’s rights on “Google Killer,” hasn’t squeezed it into a column since last May. In the last year, only three Search Insider columns have used the term. When we Insiders stop caring about the world after Google, imagine how disinterested the rest of the population must be.

Search and the Oxygen Cycle

As I watch my family’s day-to-day routines unwind, I realize that search is like air. We use it without thinking about it. We just accept it. And so, the industry that lies behind the query box falls into the same category as the biochemical process that ensures we have oxygen. I don’t care how it works, as long as it does work.

So, maybe search is boring. Maybe it’s lost its luster, ceasing to be a bright shiny object. Maybe the cool people have all moved on to social media and mobile, where they attend conferences wearing block logoed T-shirts, sipping free mimosas and talking about how no one gets Foursquare. It’s the same group you used to see at the search shows, waiting to board the bus to the Google Dance.

But I can’t help thinking that perhaps this is a good thing. You can only be cool for so long. Sooner or later, you have to grow up and do some real business. It’s the difference between a bar pick-up and a marriage. Social might be sexy, but search pays the bills and puts food on the table.

On second thought, maybe a little diversion is just what the doctor ordered. Look over here, all you journalists and financial analysts! Look at what’s happening where the really cool people play. Ooh and aah at these social widgets and nifty apps. Meanwhile, we search people will drudge along, cranking out a few more billion in search revenues.

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