The Grassy Knol: Google’s ‘attack on media’

The appearance of Google Knol seems  to be causing some consternation in the J-bloggashpere.  The general tone is that the search giants new ‘encyclopedia’ is a step too far.

Danny Sanchez frames his (very balanced) take with a quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt

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.

Danny’s argument is that Knol is very firmly about generating content (and revenue from it ) rather than simply hosting it. He continues.

Knol also represents a potential conflict of interest in Google’s own search results. If Knol articles are meant to be “authoritative articles about specific topics,” those familiar with search engine optimization will see the red flag.

You can see the dilema. Authority, advertising and effective search. That’s what google is offering whith Knol working alongside its other offerings.  And that’s what the media industry has been spending a good deal of time and money trying to buid.  The truth is Google have always and will always do it better – up to a point.

Stable door…

It’s common sense that Google, like many of the other web giants out there, are something to learn from rather than challenge. So I’m not sure that accusing a company, with an effective business model and sensible development strategy, of killing of the competition, especially if the competition is no competition at all is going to cut much ice.

The economic environment of the web may have changed since Google was a fresh faced start up. But first to market is still first to market. A retrospective ‘monopolies and mergers’ approach to leveling the playing field could backfire. Look at the way the record industries protectionist stance has hit their market.

We are not Google

In this instance I think the market will decide. The ubiquity of Google in the search market will mean that people will start to look around for their content. Perhaps we will see the re-emergence of the metafilter search. Maybe the idea that journalists will become the trusted filters will be where we need to focus. As more than one person has said – we need to do what we do best and ignore the rest.

But here are some things to consder along the way. Perhaps reasons, maybe excuses. But things that we need to think about:

  • Google don’t need to ‘fix’ search results they profit either way.
  • SEO fixes the results- even ethical SEO – that skews results
  • Trust is earned – we have still have a surplus (I think we do) we should invest it wisley
  • I bet the media write a story ‘slamming’ the quality of information on Knol before someone writes a Knol attacking the accuracy of the media
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