Google News keeps spreading as rapidly as kudzu

The Google booth at SES NY 08

Image by SESConferenceSeries via Flickr

Google News is like kudzu, which is known as “the vine that ate the South” because of its out-of-control growth in the Southeastern United States. Although I’m from New England, friends like Stacy Williams of Prominent Placement, which is headquartered in Atlanta, tell me that kudzu is called the “mile-a-minute vine” in her neighborhood.

According to the Nielsen Company, there were 15,895,000 unique visitors to Google News U.S. in November 2009, and 4,817,000 to Google News France, 3,082,000 to Google News U.K., 2,727,000 to Google News Germany, 2,424,000 to Google News Spain, and 2,328,000 to Google News Italy that month.

According to comScore, there were 99,761,000 unique visitors to Google News worldwide in November 2009, and 21,216,000 to Google News U.S., 8,020,000 to Google News France, 5,567,000 to Google News U.K., 4,481,000 to Google News Canada, 4,461,000 to Google News Germany, 3,066,000 to Google News Spain, and 2,981,000 to Google News Italy.

Although they used different sample sizes and research methodologies, both market research firms report that the audience for Google News is huge.

According to Google News, “We have more than 40 regional editions of Google News in many different languages.” But when I count the full list of available editions, I find 71.

Well, 71 is “more than 40.” But you get the feeling that even the folks at Google News can’t keep up with its kudzu-like growth.

If you check Newsknife, you’ll see that the folks there are working overtime to keep up, as well. On January 2, 2010, Newsknife reported, “During 2009, we sighted 2501 sites there for the first time, bringing our total to 11,742 sites.” That’s a long, long way from the 4,000 news sources that Google News started with in September 2002.

We’ve reported on the advent of YouTube News, Google Fast Flip, and Living Stories at Google News.

Well, Fast Flip is now available on the Google News homepage. And five dozen publishers, including include Tribune Co. newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, McClatchy Company newspapers such as the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star, the Huffington Post, Popular Science, Reuters, Public Radio International, POLITICO and U.S. News & World Report are included.

So, what does all this mean to marketers?

Like any rapidly changing field, the spread of Google News and its recent mutations represent an opportunity or a threat to marketers. If you want to know just how big an opportunity or threat it is, then ask your PR people, “What are you doing differently today than you were in September 2002 when Google News was launched?”

If they have a good answer, then ask, “What are you doing differently today than you were in May 2007 when Google launched universal search?”

And if they have a good answer, then ask, “What are you doing differently today than you were in June 2009 when Google News and YouTube teamed up to help news publishers build a bigger audience for their video content?”

I had to face similar questions last week as the special guest of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey (SWMS). Whitmore knows all about press release optimization and universal search. He wanted to know if there was any “new news” to share with his subscribers, who are tech PR pros.

No I can’t share my entire presentation, because you need to be a SWMS subscriber to see and hear that. But Whitmore, who was a colleague of mine at Ziff-Davis back in the 1990s, did agree to provide the last eight minutes of our editorial teleconference for free to Search Engine Watch Blog readers.

So, check it out for yourself. And if you think your PR people should know about this stuff, then email them a link to this post. Or, write about it in your own CMO blog. Or check out the chicklets below and Stumble It, Add to, or Tweet it on Twitter.

But make sure your PR people get the message. The times they are a-changin’ — and public relations need to change at the same rapid pace as Google News.

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