Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) wants to cash in on premium advice, but I'm going to offer a tidbit for free.
Helpouts by Google is the search engine giant's latest foray into diversifying away from online advertising as its prime revenue source. The new platform provides premium video chats, but you should probably get your mind out of the gutter if you think that this is that kind of video service.
Specialists across several categories -- from home improvement to cooking to education -- offer personalized appointments using Google's Hangouts service. Providers charge by the minute or by the session, though a few are offering introductory consults for free. Google takes a piece of the action, of course.
There's a better way
It's a logical combination of YouTube, Google+, and even Google Wallet, but why didn't Google just buy LivePerson (NASDAQ:LPSN)? Yes, that's my free advice to the dot-com behemoth.
LivePerson relies primarily on a platform that delivers real-time chat solutions to major websites. It has more than 8,500 largely well-known clients that rely on LivePerson to pop up on a browser when a visitor needs assistance or a shopping cart is about to be abandoned. However, we also can't forget about its namesake platform for consumers, which delivers one-to-one advice by the minute.
That sounds a lot like Helpouts by Google without the video interaction. It's also a small part of LivePerson's business, accounting for just 10% of revenue in its latest quarter. However, LivePerson has already gone through the learning curve that Helpouts by Google is about to enter. Just as Google is seeking out specialists and then serving them up blindly to the first wave of users to weed out the good from the bad, LivePerson has already been through the vetting process. LivePerson has 30,000 registered experts available across 600 different categories.
Big G could have bought its way up the learning curve
It won't be a surprise to find a lot of people displeased with the first wave of Helpouts. It takes time to cut out the bad stuff. LivePerson could have spared Google the inevitably rough start by arming it with tens of thousands of seasoned experts who have mastered the art of delivering timely advice worth paying for.
Google could've bought all of LivePerson and taken it to a new level. With LivePerson's market cap of $500 million and a stock that has been meandering lately, it wouldn't have taken too much of a premium to buy a business that Google could have easily expanded given its thicker Rolodex of web-backed marketers. However, it could have also simply snapped up LivePerson's consumer business for a likely pittance, making sure that it had a following and proven experts from the start.
Helpouts by Google still has a chance to succeed, even in a world where free nonpersonalized advice can often be found within the company's own YouTube videos. However, it would have had a higher chance of taking off with LivePerson in its arsenal.