Blog Post

Google Needs to Have Santa Now Too?


Google and Bing got their product search ready for the holiday shopping season, but they did something else to be ready for the high traffic volume that comes with the holidays as well. NORAD, a Santa tracking service, has been partnered with Bing maps for the past couple years, and Google feels like it's being left out of the game. So, naturally, Google is announcing their own Santa tracking feature that will be integrated with Google Maps and Google Earth. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn about Google and Bing's latest competitive feature and decide which one you will use to track Santa this year.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to be talking about Google’s Santa Tracker. I’m Chad Hill and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. Google’s Santa Tracker is kind of an interesting story, so let’s get into this, Chad. NORAD officially launched its Santa Tracker on Sunday, a few days ago, and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) is pretty well known as the “official Santa Tracker” on the internet, and for the second year in a row, NORAD has selected Bing maps to use for its Santa Tracker. Of course, Bing being partnered up with the most popular Santa Tracker app on the internet has gotten Google’s attention, and they’ve decided that they’re going to go ahead with a competing Santa Tracker, not to be outdone by Bing. There’s always a competition, and it’s an interesting story for our internet marketing community. We’ll get to that in a second.

First, Chad, there’s a fascinating history here about where the Santa Tracker came from and why NORAD, the Aerospace Defense Command is involved at all. It actually started accidentally, way back in 1955. Apparently, there was an advertisement that was mistakenly printed in the Colorado Sears-Robuck catalog with the wrong phone number for kids to call to get a status on where Santa was. Rather than ringing where it was supposed to, it actually rang at the operations center for NORAD which was, back then, called CONAD. The Colonel in charge of the staff at that phone number got lots of phone calls from kids saying, “Hey, where is Santa?” and of course, he was going to tell them. So, he started giving out the coordinates. That’s really how this whole thing started.

It’s evolved since 1955, as the internet and maps have come of age, into something quite sophisticated. If you have kids, you probably already are familiar with it. If you’re not, it’s a 3D map, there are some fun activities, it’s available in eight different languages, and of course you can still call or email if you want to get status. But, as I mentioned, they partnered up with Bing, and of course that gets under Google’s skin. So, Google wants to get in the game and create a competing Santa Tracker. So Chad, what do we know about what Google is up to?

As you said, Adam, it is interesting, and it’s definitely a good little example of the shift that Google has seen play out over the last couple of years. They used to be perfectly content being a resource you would go to, and now, more ad more, they want that mindshare and that share of audience on these types of events. So, let’s talk about what’s going on here. Like you said, a couple years ago, they used Google Maps. Last year they went to Bing, and so this year, Google is rolling out this competitive project that uses Google Earth. It’s very slick, as we can expect-- anyone who uses Google Earth knows that it’s a really nice product. But, I think the real question here is, “Google, do you really have to do this?” I mean, this is something that’s been NORAD’s baby for a very long time, and it feels a little bit like it’s a little “me too” and a little bit of sour grapes because they basically went with Bing away from Google, and now Google’s going to try to take some of that share, and my guess is that with their reach, they may actually pull quite a few people off NORAD. Then, you know, for the kids now there is going to be different maps showing Santa in different places, so how is that really going to play out? It’s definitely an interesting trend, and a little fun for the holiday season, I guess.

Yeah, so I guess on the one side, you say, “Google, leave well enough alone.” How much, really, is at stake economically here? NORAD has been doing this for a very long time, and if anyone is feeling critical of why government time, resources, and dollars are going to this, we should point out that this is all done by volunteers. Over 1200 NORAD employees volunteer their time, above and beyond what they do for work, to respond to phone calls and emails and to help support the technology. I’m kind of with you, Chad. Maybe this is one that Google should just take the high road on. They’re the number one player on the internet, they own the internet, but NORAD owns monitoring the skies and has a long tradition of tracking Santa that goes back to 1955. I guess on the flip side, Chad, our kids probably need to be aware that things in life always have choices and that there will always be competition. Whether it’s Burger King and McDonalds, Android and Apple iOS, or Bing and Google, this is how things work in our free market economy.

We’d be interested in your thoughts, too. Is this sour grapes on Google’s part? Should they leave well enough alone, or is this a healthy lesson for youngsters in how competition works? Leave us some comments, and we hope to see you back at our Brown Bag tomorrow. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Comments (17)

  • Joe Reply

    It's amazing that we now have two search engines fighting over Santa. However, very interesting on the history behind the santa tracker. Google should take a bow and be proud of what they already have.

    12/04/13 at 09:18 PM
  • Renee Reply

    Love the history of the NORAD Santa Tracker and that it has been a volunteer project all these years. We use the NORAD tracker every year in our house. And it lends some street cred to the whole thing that it's NORAD tracking Santa! There is no doubt that Google can provide a more entertaining and whiz-bang site. But perhaps, in the spirit of the holidays, they should consider partnering or linking to the NORAD tracking site for the actual tracking.

    12/05/13 at 10:35 AM
  • Charlie Reply

    This definitely has a tinge of spite to it. I really don't see why Google needs to have a share of this. What exactly do they gain by competing with NORAD volunteers?

    12/05/13 at 02:50 PM
  • Jesse Reply

    My money is still on Norad.

    12/05/13 at 02:51 PM
  • Charlie Reply

    @Jesse- It really has to be. Google doesn't have missiles or fighter jets...yet.

    12/05/13 at 02:52 PM
  • Eric R Reply

    The santa tracker is actually really funny. It was a great way to get my little cousins to go to bed early, because we'd show them santa is almost to our house. "Santa just touched down on the east coast. He won't stop if you don't go to bed." :P got them in bed so the adults could talk and drink a little more.

    12/05/13 at 03:05 PM
  • Patrick Reply

    Interesting point about how this could teach kids how they always have choices in our culture. But if the trackers show different paths (which they almost certainly will, right?), that could be disastrous for parents tasked with trying to explain it...

    12/05/13 at 03:08 PM
  • Bill F Reply

    He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've used Bing or Google...

    12/05/13 at 03:22 PM
  • Matt Reply

    Go Norad.

    12/05/13 at 04:01 PM
  • scottjcamp Reply

    There's no telling what's on those barges, Charlie! S.A.M.'s? If Google can't have Santa, NOBODY CAN!!!

    12/05/13 at 04:07 PM
  • Matt Reply

    Go Norad.

    12/05/13 at 04:25 PM
  • Matt Reply

    Although i am bit worried that someone at Norad could fat finger a button and launch an ICBM at Santa.

    12/05/13 at 04:28 PM
  • Jesse Reply

    Oh gosh. They'd have to brush the mothballs off of Dan Rather to deliver that news. "Tonight, dreams were shattered across the country as the United States Government decided to take out, Santa.

    12/05/13 at 04:30 PM
  • Terrance Reply

    I'm all for the underdog!!

    12/05/13 at 05:33 PM
  • Leanne Reply

    I'm with Charles. What funds/figures are we talking about? How much does NORAD benefit? What about Google? I need to know numbers before I feel sympathy/empathy for either party. ;)

    Still, I don't think explaining *which* Santa tracker is the right one will be a problem for most parents. Most kids who truly and completely believe in Santa are younger, right? Are young kids really spending a substantial amount of time online comparing Google and Bing Santa trackers?

    12/05/13 at 10:01 PM
  • Reply

    Norad can not be undone. Move on Google

    06/27/14 at 04:16 PM
  • Reply

    They shouldn't compete, but rather collaborate. That'd be splitting its popularity in half otherwise.

    09/25/14 at 10:24 AM

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