Short Takes: Bing’s 999 Plan

Microsoft’s fledgling search engine Bing has been scrappy in its battle with Google. It isn’t shy about buying ads on Google to promote its alternative. Now it’s hijacking the political conversation, outbidding GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain to show ads in response to searches for “999” and “Herman Cain 999.”

The ads encourage searchers to check out Bing’s information on “The 999 Explained.” Bing’s results are fairly similar to Google’s, except it puts news results tied to 999 higher. It’s a clever move, but it’s not as if clickers will find a radically different (and better) experience. Therein likes Bing’s problem. While it’s tinkered with improving search, it hasn’t radically improved it from what people already get from Google, which is synonymous with search.
Clearly, with Cain’s candidacy suddenly taking center stage — the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO has risen to the top of several polls — Bing is looking to glom onto any related search traffic generated by Cain’s equally catchy, intriguing and puzzling 9-9-9 tax plan, which most of the GOP candidates hammered during Tuesday’s debate on CNN.
What’s seriously puzzling is why Microsoft was the only one who thought of this tactic. Why haven’t Gov. Mitt Romney or Rep. Michelle Bachmann pounced on this wave of interest in Cain’s ideas, and 999 specifically? Seems like a golden opportunity to continuing hammering this proposal, and presenting a candidate’s own tax proposal.
Thanks to Ben Kunz for pointing out the search ad.

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