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Google Gives Up on a Gigantic Opportunity

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When Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) purchased Blogger in 2003, it was making a bet on the "global self-publishing phenomenon." Four years later, it would acquire FeedBurner, a popular tool for managing syndicated content feeds for about $100 million.

Neither bet has paid off. Today, Blogger badly trails Automattic, creator of the WordPress blogging and content management system, and FeedBurner is months away from a downgrade that has users searching for alternatives. This is what putting "more wood behind fewer arrows" looks like.

Is backing off Blogger and FeedBurner a good idea, even if "backing off" here means merely putting the products in maintenance mode? The content managment system market offers major opportunity now that readers have become accustomed to digital content.

For those unfamiliar, a content management system, or CMS, is a collaborative environment for editing, formatting, and ultimately publishing any sort of content. Early systems were used to track and manage code needed to build websites. Later, large-scale programs built by the likes of EMC's (NYSE: EMC  ) Documentum and Canada's Open Text (Nasdaq: OTEX  ) would profit from helping corporations manage the paper flowing through their bureaucratic veins.

Fast forward to today: Digital publishers have taken to CMS for inventorying, formatting, and publishing to new articles to blogs and news websites. A surprising number are built entirely from scratch. According to data compiled by Pingdom, 14% of the top 100 blogs run on some sort of custom-cooked system while 49% used some form of WordPress. Blogger's tally: Just one, Google's official company blog.

If Google cares about getting dominated in this way, you wouldn't know it from its development schedule. An unlisted YouTube video explaining the "new" Blogger was posted more than a year ago. And on Dec. 3, Google will unplug FeedBurner from AdSense, murdering one of the few options bloggers have for monetizing content as it's distributed to a subscriber list.

Will anyone other than Automattic and a FeedBurner alternative called FeedBlitz fill the CMS gap? An up-and-coming platform called Squarespace appears to hold promise, but it, too, is privately held. Any number of disruptors could still turn this market on its head.

Even so, over at Motley Fool Rule Breakers, our money is on Open Text for its partnership with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , whose SharePoint customers are offered access to OpenText's CMS technology. Will these two continue to profit as Google gives up on CMS? Our Rule Breakers research team is addressing this and other issues in regular coverage of the stock. Click here to get a free trial and immediate access to the service.


Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web homeportfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of EMC, Google, Microsoft, and Open Text, and is short Open Text. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Google and Open Text . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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