Is Google (GOOG) The Last Man Standing?

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Analysts are of two minds about Google (GOOG). The first is that because it is the most efficient way for companies to reach customers that it will not be hurt much by the recession. As marketers trim budgets, Google will be the media industry mainstay because it is the best advertising tool ever invented.

The dissenters say that not even Google can survive a really big, bad recession without its revenue being beaten down. Some Wall St. types even think that Google’s top line could shrink next year. That would end one of the greatest runs of success in the history of US business.

The pessimists are getting some support from Google’s own actions. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Google is ratcheting back spending and cutting new projects." Is the move based on panic, or is it simply prophylactic?

There is reason to believe that Google will do just fine as the recession grows deeper and deeper. Cuts will improve margins. But, on the revenue side there are great opportunities which the company has never tapped. The world’s largest search operation has billions of pages a month on which it runs no advertising at all.

There are no ads on Google Maps. a perfect place for national retailers and restaurants like McDonald’s (MCD) and Sears (SHLD). Google News collects information from 4,500 sources, a perfect place to market The New York Times (NYT), Reuters, or USA Today. And, what of Google Books? Where are the ads from Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Amazon (AMZN)?

The recession will be a valuable lesson for Google. It has opportunities for revenue that it has never exploited. That will be more than enough to take it through hard times.

Douglas A. McIntyre