Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA, a search leader in online flight reservations, doesn’t have a direct impact on local advertising and services. Its immediate impact is on rival metasearch-based travel solutions, especially Orbitz, which gets 40 percent of its revenues from online flight reservations. Expedia and Travelocity are much less dependent on online flight reservations. Online travel agencies will also take a hit.
But the role of metasearch is ultimately very important to the local search space – in part, because it was an area in which vertical specialists could build value in search that was not dependent on Google. This potentially includes everything from events guides (i.e. Zvents) to coupon aggregation (i.e. Yipit) to local classes (i.e. TeachStreet) to autos (i.e. AutoTrader). ITA breaks airline flights down by airline, schedule and price. That type of granularity can be applied across the local spectrum.
Taking it a step further, Metasearch is also the tip of iceberg for the burgeoning lead generation business, as Piper Jaffrey’s Gene Munster points out. So the obvious question for Google (and to Google) is: Will Google use ITA as a foundation for other vertical metasearch activities? For our part, we see it as a natural progression.