Have you searched Google for your favorite music video recently? Looking for Foster The People - "Coming of Age", the latest comeback track from the American Indie pop trio, produced a surprise return yesterday. Google has given the top result its own player sized image and it looks like it's a playable video right there in the search result - but clicking doesn't fire up the video - it's still a link to the video page.
Subsequent searches for numerous music tracks produced a similar result, so in my book that makes it official! It seems to require both the artist and the track name to get a consistent return of this type - entering the artist or the track alone produces the old style thumbnail image result.
What we're seeing is a larger version of the first thumbnail sized image we have come to expect. And guess what! All the searches I have conducted so far go to Youtube, which in fairness to Google, is exactly the same link as the old thumbnail.
New Search Results Skewed in Favor of YouTube?
Despite dozens of searches for multiple combinations of artists and tracks I've failed to bring up a Vimeo or Dailymotion link. Now I'm not suggesting anything sinister by Google in this (such as global control or dominance of the music viewing destination). I'm sure they're also featuring links to other destinations other than YouTube. (Dear Reader - if you're successful in discovering a link other than to YouTube perhaps you could add it to the comments below.)
So why would Google feature the first result with a stand out video player sized image? And only do it for music videos where you've specifically searched for the artist AND track? Of course the top result is not necessarily the 'Official' music label's video as in the Vevo example above - as usual sometimes the top result is a pirated version. So it doesn't appear to be an attempt to make the music industry any happier!
There are plenty of rumors flying around that YouTube now has sufficient licenses to launch its own subscription based music service in Q1 this year. That would start to make some sense - but will Google really take the first result to their own subscription revenue stream or even to their existing Google Play?
I doubt very much if either of these options are in Google's plans. I think it's simply that the top result - now featured as a player that dominates above the fold - is almost always the one with the most views to date. When you idly click the featured video, instead of scrolling down for alternatives, you will sit through the usual pre-roll advert that's making money for Google and the video owner.