Business Week media maven Jon Fine sent me a link to his latest column and said I wouldn’t like the idea presented there. He’s quite right. He proposes a vision of the future that is really just a long-dead dream of the big-media past, back before the internet and before big, bad Google, when the big companies controlled content and thought they controlled the world:
What if 2006 is the year big media players take aim at Google’s kneecaps? No, not with more lawsuits; the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers — on behalf, in part, of BusinessWeek’s parent company, The McGraw-Hill Companies — and Agence France-Presse have already sued the search behemoth. Rather, picture this: Walt Disney, News Corp., NBC Universal, and The New York Times, in an odd tableau of unity, join together and say: “We are the founding members of the Content Consortium. Next month we launch our free, searchable Web site, which no outside search engines can access…. From now on we’ll make our stuff available and sell ads around it and the searches for it, but only on our terms. Who else wants to join us? Membership’s free.”
Well, that would be hugely stupid. And though huge companies can be stupid, I don’t think they’d be that self-destructive. For the truth of life today — like it or not, lump it or not — is that Google is everyone’s front page. And, yes, that can make life difficult. Google kills brands; Google commodifies everything. But that’s not Google’s fault. That comes part-and-parcel with this new, distributed world where we control the entry to the content we want and where there is no longer a scarcity of content that lets a few big players control it and us. Wishing this weren’t so won’t make it not so.
So when AFP sues Google to stop it from quoting and linking to its stories, it is cutting off its nose to spite its face. When newspapers put content behind pay and archive walls, they are killing their own Googlejuice and thus their audience — that is, the audience are not now attracting to their print products and their brands. When book publishers try to stop Google from indexing books so they can be found, they are killing the words and thoughts in them and cutting them off from the world.
Meanwhile, the smart guys are hiring search-engine-optimization experts and trying to figure out how to get more people to their stuff thanks to Google. See the post below: Walled gardens are no more. Or, if they do exist, they are lonely places populated only by their few, cranky proprietors.
Fine raises the ghost of the last effort at a content consortium: The newspaper industry’s New Century Network. I had the bad fortune to have witnessed and suffered through that clusterfuck. It was a disaster not just because newspaper people can’t get along, as Fine hints, but also because they tried to solve their problems, not the public’s.
: At the same time, we have the self-annointed usability “expert” Jakob Nielsen (didn’t anybody ever tell him that reading lines of text three feet long isn’t very usable?!?) also goes after Google and search engines, calling them leeches because they create an open marketplace that suck more profit out of transactions as they get bigger and more efficient. His sequence sounds right but not his solutions. What we need is competition. What we need is an open ad marketplace. More on that in time….
: Seth Godin understands what Jakob is really saying:
Jakob, on the other hand, inadvertently explains why keyword advertising is such a brilliant invention.