Google buying Groupon? Says who? (updated)
If you want to see how rumors can spread in the tech press, click over to Google News and search for "google groupon." You'll see a few dozen stories all suggesting that the search giant just paid $2.5 billion to for Groupon, the social-shopping site that bundles new bulk discounts every day.
But none of the stories has been confirmed by any sources except for noting that VatorNews (a site that I must confess I did not know existed until this morning) posted an item that "Google has just purchased Groupon for $2.5 billion, according to an unnamed insider who spoke with VatorNews."
And Vator's own headline ends in a question mark: "Google buys Groupon for $2.5 billion?"
Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich gave the reply you'd expect from most companies in this situation: "No comment from us on this one."
That's an unhelpful but telling response: If you start saying "no comment" to some acquisition rumors and "that's not true," to others, people might read the former response as, "Yes, but we're not ready to announce anything."
I see plenty of reasons to wonder why giving Google access to the attention of Chicago-based Groupon's subscribers, 18 million as of September, and the businesses that use Groupon offers to lure new customers would offer a sufficient reward overall. For an overview of them, see Kara Swisher's post on AllThingsD, noting the high price and higher regulatory obstacles such a combination would entail.
We should keep in mind Google's prime directive: getting people to spend more time on the Internet, where they can see more of Google ads. Does Groupon need to be folded into Google's empire to make that happen? It doesn't seem necessary for Google to own an online store to get people happy about online commerce in general.
It would make more sense for a company like Yahoo -- itself the subject of Groupon-acquisition stories -- to make this purchase.
(Another thing to keep in mind: One of Groupon's chief competitors, District-based LivingSocial, was founded and is run by a fellow named Tim O'Shaughnessy who happens to be the son-in-law of Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham.)
So far, this story is too thin to predict a deal. It does, however, have one confirmed virtue: It's keeping some of us from writing about a completely contrived topic, "Cyber Monday" online sales. (The Monday after Thanksgiving isn't the biggest online sales day, but maybe this year will be an exception.)
Have an Internet rumor you'd rather see me chase down? Please post your suggestion in the comments.
Update, 11/30, 9:59 a.m. Now we have something more solid to go on. Swisher posted last night that "sources close to the situation"--as in, not just one person--had Google offering Groupon not $2.5 billion but $5.3 billion. I still question the wisdom of that kind of purchase. But maybe it's just me thinking I have quite enough Google in my life already. Do you?
| November 29, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
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