I really despise places, I want to find WEBSITES from Google.
It's getting worse, not better.
oh yea goog is really locking down local big time, its goog maps, goog ads, goog place pages. they are trying to make websites useless. You play in their pool or you are high and dry.
Soon enough most people will see behind the Google PR and notice what this all is about. The average website makes no money for Google or nowhere near enough compare to places, brands that advertise a certain % back on Google etc. To judge if it's getting better or worse, you need to know the goals of such strategy.
It's clear to me that users are much more tolerant of not-so-perfect results, at least from Google, and if that's the case, why not use that to promote their other services and make some cash too? Will it kill you to scroll a bit to find the best match if you want to? Now everyone will add Places and once you click there you have more chances to click on Google ads. Once they corner that market, they'll remove them and promote something else.
When I search for a sentence Google books show up now too, at least in batches of two. I click and see the yellow matching color: one word up, two down, one left, one right...Looks rigged to me since it's not related to what I searched for. Then there's after-panda Blogger blogs showing in top ten quite a bit lately...but that's another story.
After you see Google as another $30 Billion a year giant and question their 'just a few geeks having fun helping people' shtick you'll get your sanity back.
By the way I posted the story because I thought (it may be true or it may not be) that Google reacted in knee-jerk fashion by dropping the places listings to 2 from 7 because of this story. Seemed very odd and unprofessional for the web's main gatekeeper.
Brett, NYT is business and looking after its own interests :). Google is hurting newspapers by taking 'their' advertising revenue and traffic /adsense is not replacing it. And Google pandalized About.com, right or wrong NYT has salaries and debt to pay. And Huff Post, with a lot of help from Google, now gets more traffic then NYT. No doubt other Huff Posts are getting traffic that NYT thinks they deserve if Google did it right. So it's business--with a public interest angle too.