If Google is to succeed as a travel content provider and discovery engine, it needs to integrate its search capabilities with the insights of experts -- humans -- who know a destination best.
Who needs Frommer’s?
Google, which recently closed on its Frommer’s acquisition, already is offering digital tour guides, although the effort is data-heavy and human-free.
Just enter “New York City things to do” in the Google search box, and Google spits out 18 tourist attractions in a pictorial list across the top of the screen pointing to the usual suspects — everything from Central Park and Rockefeller Center to the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Terminal.
Select any of the entries, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Google plots the attraction’s location on a map; provides basic details about the museum’s history and focus; displays thumbnails of Claude Monet and Thomas Cole pieces there; and then presents an ad, as well as a variety of links to sites with more information about the tourist destination.
Google even embeds a metmuseum.org search box into search results, enabling you to search the museum’s website without leaving Google, although the search results are much different than you’d see if you searched on the museum’s website itself.
The Knowledge Graph, which became available last month to “every English-speaking country in the world,” according to a Google blog post, is a “database of more than 500 million real-world people, places and things with 3.5 billion attributes and connections among them.”
So although you can use it to find tourist attractions in Orlando (but not for Santa Fe, New Mexico), you will can also view Knowledge Graph-induced lists on Google for “famous female astronomers.”
As the debate continues about whether Google will kill Frommer’s print editions and how Google will integrate Frommer’s digital content, Google’s data-driven Knowledge Graph underlines that the search behemoth is all about serving up the most relevant results for a destination rather than a mix of curated, specialized recommendations that experts can provide.
Maybe it does need the human touch of Frommer’s expertise after all.