By Shriya Roy
For long, Google Maps has been the go-to app to find one’s location, look for directions or even read reviews before visiting a place. It is an essential tool today for its more than one billion monthly active users. But have you ever wondered about its potential to become the next big content platform? Yes, it’s possible. While data about its number of active users is quite easily accessible, very few know about the over 120 million contributors whom we depend on before trying a new restaurant or visiting a place.
Every review or photo that you see on the platform is content that has been created much like other social media platforms such as Reddit, Facebook or Twitter. These reviews and photos are viewed by millions of users on the internet. And just like Reddit, Google has a point system, so you earn points by posting reviews and photos. Unlike Reddit, however, it is based on quantity, that is, the number of reviews written. These points stack up until the user earns badges and then their review is likely to be shown at the top. It’s perhaps safe to say that Google Maps has pretty much nailed the ingredients of a quality content platform without even officially being one.
A successful content-based platform provides three main benefits to a user: visibility, ownership and compensation. Platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook provide users visibility for the content they put out. The compensation can be either monetary or in terms of visibility and reach. Initially, though, this is where Google Maps faltered. Even if a user amassed over a million views on their reviews, other users would have no idea who they were. But Google dealt with this issue swiftly and came out with ‘Maps profiles’, which was released earlier this year. With this update, users can follow contributors, see their reviews and scroll through their content.
On any content-producing platform, people follow and eagerly wait for their favourite content creator’s next video, article, album, etc. With Google’s mapping platform, it could be an easy business to get a local’s recommendations. This might lead to answers for questions that contributors and reviewers have been asking for a long time.
When it comes to monetisation, YouTube brings in about $15.5 billion a year and has a system that pays content creators. Google Maps, on the other hand, makes an estimated $3.5 billion from ads. If contributors and reviewers on the platform start getting rewarded monetarily, the quality of reviews and pictures would go up. It would also enable the platform to shift in favour of content creators.
The steps that tech giant Google has taken with Google Maps in terms of making changes in the user interface and contribution system leans towards an attempt to prioritise user content. The reach that the platform offers is enormous, with people all over the world exploring their towns and surroundings.
The Google Maps platform doesn’t just give users an opportunity to add a map to their site, but also empowers one of the longest standing developer communities and supports more than five million projects from businesses of all sizes, contributing to an ecosystem of innovative partners around the world. With its homegrown social network Google+ failing to grab the attention it was intended to, investing in making Google Maps a contemporary content platform could go a long way.
Google Maps has an outstanding reach and so is in the perfect position to make the switch from being just a utility tool to a full-blown content-producing platform. People on the platform also spend significant amount of time writing reviews. For the common man, it’s a newsfeed of the physical world, quite literally. Content creators and contributors are hoping that this move towards more in-depth input would lead to more material benefit for them.