Posted on April 22, 2011 by Kevin Getch Spread the loveIs there really any reason Google can’t concur every business niche on the planet? The company is set to compete with social buying sites such as Groupon, and they have picked Portland as one of three markets to dip their toes in (the other two are San Francisco and New York). Portland may seem like an odd choice among the two other major cities, but word has it that Google saw success with the Portland business community since launching Hotpot, a feature whereby Google invites users to review local businesses and then integrates the reviews into Google Places. Here’s how it works: users in these markets can subscribe to Google Offers to get discounts via email. Once you sign up, you are told to expect regular email discount offers of 50 percent or more. But since the promise is for “once offers are available,” they must be still in the midst of working out arrangements with local merchants (or waiting on a certain number of signups first?). Even if you aren’t in these initial test markets, Google invites you to sign up to be notified once they become available in your neck of the woods. The basic concept of “social buying sites” is that people in a given market are promised a certain discount on products or services, with the catch that enough people have to buy the coupons for them to become a reality. The obvious attraction to merchants is that they are guaranteed that X amount of people will be buying what they are offering as an exchange for the discount. If you recall, there were rumors swirling late last year that Google wanted to buy Groupon, which the company turned down. Groupon is set for a $25 billion IPO this year. While there are hundreds of websites with similar business models, the only other big competitor is LivingSocial, which recently raised $400 million to compete for market share with Groupon. Soon, they will have to count Google as competition as well.