If your business involves the end of the world (web forums, information, survival guides, etc.) a new film's Google results just made your life a lot richer. Slate.com reports that Sony Pictures' forthcoming release, 2012, encourages eager viewers to Google the term "2012." Doing so brings up the movie's official website, videos, images and trailers, but also links to a whole flock of "amateur scholars, fearmongering opportunists, and fly-by-night profiteers" who are enjoying increased hits as the movie's Nov. 13 release date approaches.

The term 2012 refers not just to the film title, but also to the calendar year that, theoretically, ancient Mayans predicted would bring the end of the world. Sponsored links who have chosen 2012 as a keyword for Google's paid advertising searchers have for years been seeing straggling web hits. When trailers hit the silver screen and buzz about Roland Emmerich's new action film reached a tipping point, Slate reported that "Google impressions ... increased tenfold ... spiking to nearly 3 million in October alone."

Reporter Eric Hynes quotes one small web business owner, Robert Bast, who has been serially publishing a book called Survive 2012 on his website, as saying (jokingly), "The free promotion of my site via Sony was nice ... But you never know, the idea for the movie may have begun from a visit to my site." The unexpected marketing boost for many small or independent entrepreneurs may have been part of Sony's plan all along. Marketing materials for the film encourage just the search term 2012 rather than a more specific search including the word movie. Slate suggests Sony may have been deliberately tapping into the "existing paranoid hysteria" to make the film seem like a "significant cultural event."

The article suggests Sony is playing into our proclivity for overraction, making "satellite sites" that are easily confused with existing doomsday organizations' sites. In the end, the movie creates perhaps undue hype for the film and Armageddon business, but certainly boosts revenue for both.