We’ve had a ton of calls from media and industry types about Google’s new Consumer Survey product, given its striking similarities to our business. Yes, we deliver brief polls to web users, sell questions to market researchers, and share proceeds with websites. That’s where the similarities end.
We’re actually excited to welcome Google into the market and here’s why:
#1-We’ve been at this for over three years. We already have hundreds of websites under license agreement (compared to the 20 sites Google referenced when they launched), and a stellar list of current and past data customers including, among others, Google.
#2- Google entering the space is a great validation of our business. It turns out that Google doesn’t dabble in small market opportunities. And, when their model mimics yours, you chalk it up as flattery.
#3- Google’s survey wall is bad for web users. For a company that brags about its user experience, their survey model is decidedly out of character. Forcing people to answer polls to access otherwise-free content doesn’t seem so user-friendly. It may even impact a site’s traffic over time. CIVICSCIENCE polls are 100% voluntary and we allow users to see the results, engage with them, and learn.
#4- We have a much more valuable solution for web publishers. Time will tell whether the nickels Google throws at websites offset the traffic and ad revenue they lose from walling off their content. Google’s approach is to ‘rescue’ websites, rather than giving them tools to support themselves. Survey data can be hugely valuable to media companies as they fight to regain the revenue they lost to the likes of Google and others. They’re giving that data to Google for a pittance.
While CIVICSCIENCE offers a revenue share to the sites that use our platform, the insights and tools we provide are far more valuable. We are empowering publishers to increase their traffic, ad revenue, and self-sufficiency. This is a clear conflict of interest for Google.
#5- Google’s results are unreliable. When we tested “forced” polls like Google’s, we found that an alarming number of users get annoyed and simply click random answers to get through. Plus, the 45% of consumers who don’t find Google at least “somewhat trustworthy” (N=90,462) or the 23% who believe Google is at least “a little evil” (N=14,580) may respond incorrectly just to mess with them. Google’s demographic inferences are also frequently inaccurate. We directly ASK people demographic questions and then we validate them.
#6- Google gives its customers a limited level of insight. Google can correlate one question with a small number of respondent attributes (age, gender, location). But, as one of our Fortune 100 customers recently wrote:
“The amazing thing about [CIVICSCIENCE] is that they can identify a single user’s responses to any number of their other poll questions which that user has previously responded to which then allows you to get a large enough sample size to crosstab your responses by basically anything you can think of.”
We can also target questions to specific groups of respondents WITHOUT requiring screening questions. Maybe you only want to target female Verizon subscribers who make less than $50,000 per year or dog owners who drive hybrid cars. We can do that right now. Google can’t.
#7- Google is pushing the limits of privacy and ethics. We assume Google’s master plan is to eventually combine people’s online behavior with their poll responses. But when does this finally start to get creepy? Can we expect people to give an honest opinion when Big Brother is watching? There’s a reason we close the curtain behind us on Election Day. 19% of people already worry that Google does a poor job of protecting their privacy (N=59,985) and it’s getting worse.
CIVICSCIENCE only stores and analyzes poll responses that people willingly share. We let everyone easily access the answers they’ve given, change whatever they don’t like, and opt-out altogether.
#8- Google is relying on outdated intelligence. When Google’s Quantitative Marketing Manager (and the individual credited in their white paper for developing Google’s methodology) was on our Scientific Advisory Board a few years ago, he learned the ins and outs of our micro-survey techniques. Our business and our technology have evolved immensely since then.
#9- We can peacefully co-exist. There are already examples of CIVICSCIENCE polls and Google’s survey-wall living on the same website, like the NY Daily News or Press Enterprise. If Google does succeed, there is no reason that our polls can’t live inside of the content Google is blockading.
#10- Google’s success rate with new business units has been less than stellar. Whenever they stray outside of their core competency, they struggle. See: Google Wave, Dodgeball, Google Music, Jaiku, Google Buzz, Orkut, Google Answers, Google X, and, most recently, Google Plus. We like those odds.