The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web. An enormous amount of information resides in people’s heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.
So Google is now going to fill in the gaps in human knowledge? That is its first hubristic leap. The next: that we need Google to create a means for sharing knowledge. That is what the internet itself does. Every page, every blog, post, every media article is precisely that.
So now Google is competing not just with media but with the entire internet and everyone who publishes on it.
This is terribly dangerous for Google. Obviously, since I’m writing a book called What Would Google Do?, I admire them and their self-awareness about their role on the internet. But this displays a clueless arrogance that is shocking from them. Have they been arrogant? Yes. But clueless? No.
But now Google is in direct conflict with everyone it wants to serve via search and advertising. Google is making itself the enemy.
Danny Sanchez quotes Eric Schmidt saying what Google has always said — and what I have repeated — when media companies fear it:
“It’s better to think of Google as a technology company. Google is run by three computer scientists, and Google is an innovator in technology in our space. We’re in the advertising business – 99% of our revenue is advertising-related. But that doesn’t make us a media company. We don’t do our own content. We get you to someone else’s content faster.
You might ask how this is different from Google providing platforms such as Blogger and Blogspot. I suspect that’s the way Google is thinking of it. But now Google is creating its own media brand.
Second, it is making a claim of authority. Says the official blog:
Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects. . . .
Google is also confirming the most common complaint about the internet: that it’s filled with crap. By this act, Google is agreeing, for it says we need Google to come along and create find the people who can create uncrap. That is precisely a media argument: that openness does not produce quality or credibility.
Google: stop before it’s too late. Competing with those you serve — from a position of unbeatable advantage — isn’t just bad business. It’s evil.
: Note: I accidentally posted this before I had finished it. Some may have gotten the incomplete version in RSS before I made some corrections. Sorry.
The online giant figures that Google News funnels readers over to the main Google search engine, where they do searches that do produce ads. And that’s a nice business. Think of Google News as a $100 million search referral machine.
What neither Mayer nor Fortt explained: The real reason why Google doesn’t put ads on Google News. That’s because it fears lawsuits from the media organizations whose headlines and text it picks up and republishes. (It’s already lost a court case brought by a newspaper group in Belgium). By not running ads on Google News, Google lawyers could argue it’s not profiting from their work.
Mayer just shot a $100 million hole in that argument. When she puts a number on how much money Google News makes for her employer, she gives newspapers’ lawyers a big, fat, juicy reason to demand a cut of the business. Sure, the newspapers already make money from the traffic Google sends their way — but do you think, given a $100 million prize, they won’t try to double-dip?
In the link economy, it becomes incumbent upon the receiver of a link to monetize it and newspapers do get a lot of links from Google.