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Profit climbs 5.6% at Google, but search ad growth slows

Google is still pulling in money hand over fist, but in its latest earnings report Thursday there were signs that its ultra-profitable business in search advertising was starting to slow.

Although the company’s revenue for the third quarter increased 20 percent from the same period last year, the cost per click — the average price the company is paid each time a user clicks on ads — was down 2 percent compared with the quarter a year ago, and was flat from the second quarter.

The cost-per-click measurement has fallen for several years as people spend more time with mobile phones, which have smaller screens and are harder to place ads on. Google does not release figures for mobile ad revenue separately from desktop ad revenue.

Paid clicks on advertisements increased 17 percent in the quarter compared with a year ago and 2 percent from the second quarter. But in the second quarter, they had increased 25 percent. The rate of increase in this important metric is slowing.

That is a concern for investors because even though Google has expanded beyond its core search business, nothing has been as profitable as that original golden goose in search.

“Google’s core search business is the best Internet business model ever created,” said Jordan Rohan, founder at Clearmeadow Partners, a strategic advisory firm focused on Internet companies. “Every other business Google is in looks pedestrian by comparison.”

—Conor Dougherty, The New York Times

Japan, seeking revision of report on wartime brothels, is rebuffed

TOKYO — The Japanese government has asked for the partial retraction of a nearly 2-decade-old U.N. report on women forced to work in Japanese military brothels, but the report’s author has refused the request, a Japanese government spokesman said Thursday.

The decision to challenge parts of the report appears to be part of a campaign set in motion by influential conservatives to try to call into question the internationally accepted view that the women, known euphemistically in Japan as “comfort women,” were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers. While the government’s announcement might play well with the conservatives who form the political base for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an outspoken nationalist, it is likely to stoke tensions with South Korea.

The spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said his government sent a top diplomat to make the request personally to Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women. Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer, wrote the 1996 report that called on Japan to apologize and pay compensation to women.

Suga did not specify exactly which part of the report his government had asked to be retracted, but he said Coomaraswamy had declined the request.

Calls by right-wing politicians and activists to challenge the women’s stories have increased sharply since August, when a major liberal newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, printed a front-page retraction of several stories it published on the issue in the 1980s and 1990s. Those stories were based on the testimony of a former Japanese soldier, Seiji Yoshida, who said he had helped kidnap Korean women to work in the brothels.

Yoshida’s specific claims were discredited by scholars, conservatives have seized on the Asahi’s retraction to assert that the sex slaves issue is a fabrication, and that the women were no more than common prostitutes who worked in the brothels of their own accord.

—Martin Fackler, The New York Times