Q&A: Why Google’s “Now on Tap” Is a Threat to Publishers


Adotas recently sat down with adMarketplace VP of Business Development, Vincent Meyer, to discuss Google’s latest mobile offering, Now on Tap.

What is the motivation behind Now on Tap?

Obviously, Google wants to present Now on Tap as a tool to enhance user experience. With Now on Tap, Android users will have fingertip access to even more relevant information without expending much effort. That said, the true motive is – unsurprisingly – financial. Google needs new ways to supplement its shrinking cash cow, search, specifically on the partner network.

Why is Google search shrinking?

Many reasons. With the rise of mobile, more people are searching in apps. And some speculate Google is losing mobile search market share to these apps. Also, the recent loss of the Mozilla deal to Yahoo, increased market activity from Bing, and rumors of Apple building its own search engine all suggest Google may take further market share losses on mobile. In the past few years, the foundations of Google’s dominance in search have steadily eroded, even as they have posted growth.

Is Google’s Now on Tap a way to expand search?

In a way it is, but it’s more about protecting Google’s search market share. Now on Tap gives Google a chance to retain these in-app searches that would otherwise take place outside of its reach.

What does Now on Tap mean for in-app search?

Now on Tap will allow Google to capture every search or intent signal that a user inputs while interacting with an app. From a user perspective, it doesn’t change much, but from Google’s perspective, it’s huge. It’s funny, because a year ago Google tried to stop other companies from doing this on desktop, and now they want to do it on mobile.

So, this isn’t a new thing?

Google has always been very protective of search. Years ago, a lot of companies saw the revenue opportunity in search and built add-on toolbars that “provided value for the user.” Typically, these toolbars came hidden in free PDF software or shopping software. These were essentially Trojan horse search data collection tools. The user would download this tool on their computers, and they would get (with or without knowing) software that captured searches or even changed the default search engine to something other than Google.

In September 2014, Google released a software removal tool targeted at toolbars or add-ons that captured the search activity of a user on a browser, and now they want to place the same kind of software on non-proprietary apps.

Why is this a big deal? How does this affect the broader search advertising industry?

Now on Tap has two main consequences for the industry: First, the data that apps (publishers) collect is no longer unique. Publishers like Foursquare that have been selling their unique audience will see their business plan go down the drain because Google can now target Foursquare users in-app.

Second, with Now on Tap, instead of paying deals with publishers, Google will redirect a user interacting with an app directly to a Google property (Google Now or search) where the inventory is free for Google.

Should publishers be concerned? What does this mean for them?

Publishers should definitely be concerned with this move because it’s clearly pushing the balance in Google’s favor. From what I saw in the past, any app that tried to access another app’s data was barred from the Google Play store. So they are breaking their own rules. So far, the announcement doesn’t mention if Now on Tap will be available for iOS, but I doubt that Apple would allow such a feature.

Do you think this move will have any antitrust implications?

This new feature is just further evidence that Google is blurring the lines by creating products that seem to be user focused, but clearly push Google’s features and products at the expense of competition. I’m sure our friends in Europe will look at this with a close eye.



  1. Google definitely benefits financially from Now on Tap, but Android app developers and users also benefit from a more “intelligent” Google Now assistant that can tap into app data.

    Apple’s equivalent to Now on Tap can be viewed as a way to take away web search traffic from Google (which it does), but it’s primary motivation is to give Siri more intelligence. Granted, Siri taps Bing for general web search.


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