Don't Blame Google And Scribd For Your Own Business Model Problems

from the try-this-on-for-size dept

Another weekend goes by and another old school newspaper guy writes a long screed condemning Google as a menace hellbent on destroying all that is good and right in the news business. This one, by Henry Porter in The Guardian is particularly amusing due to the logical inconsistencies within. It starts out, first, with a rehashing of the misguided attack on Scribd, where Porter seems to blame Scribd for actions of its users (who knew it was so difficult to separate out the drivers from the automakers). To him, Scribd is pure evil:
it still allows individuals to advertise services for delivering pirated books by email, which must make it the enemy of every writer and publisher in the world. In effect it has turned copyright law on its head: instead of asking publishers for permission, it requires them to object if and when they become aware of a breach.
Yes, that's why many authors and publishers are using Scribd to help promote their books. Apparently the fact that Scribd might be useful never occurred to Porter. It's the same complaint by plenty of folks who refuse to even think about new business model possibilities, to immediately condemn any useful new service as killing off any hope of a business model even as those willing to embrace the technology are finding it enhances rather than diminishes their opportunities.

Then, right after he complains that Scribd isn't doing enough to prevent books from getting online, he complains about Google for the exact opposite thing:
Google presents a far greater threat to the livelihood of individuals and the future of commercial institutions important to the community.... When the Performing Rights Society demanded more money for music videos streamed from the website, Google reacted by refusing to pay the requested 0.22p per play and took down the videos of the artists concerned.
This is the very next paragraph. So, let me get the logic straight: Scribd is a problem because it allows books to be posted online without permission and doesn't do enough to take them down. Google, on the other hand, is a problem because it has taken down music videos rather than leaving them up and simply paying.

So, apparently, the lesson of the day is that content creators should be able to demand a specific amount of money from any service provider for actions done by their users (not the service provider itself), and if that service provider can't pay up, too bad. Oh, and then, of course, there's the popular claim of the content creator that Google adds no value:
Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time.
Fair enough. If it adds no real value, then remove your works from Google, Mr. Porter. But, the truth is Mr. Porter is wrong and he knows it deep down inside. If Google "created nothing" and offered no value, no one would use it. But the fact is that it creates tremendous value, hence all of the usage, including some that drives traffic to Mr. Porter's weakly argued, poorly reasoned rant. The fact that Mr. Porter or his bosses are somehow unable to capitalize on that traffic is their fault alone, not Google's.

Filed Under: blame, business models, henry porter, problems
Companies: google, scribd


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  1. icon
    Jasen Webster (profile), 6 Apr 2009 @ 9:50am

    I agree with Mike.

    I look at these sites like apartment complexes. An apartment manager is not liable for the actions of a tenant. If someone complains to the apartment complex manager, then the manager addresses the tenant. I'd like to see the police go after an apartment manager for criminal activies performed by a tenant. That just doesn't happen. I think this is the point that Mike was trying to make with his analogy.

    I also agree with Mike on the point that Google provides a service not content. Using any of Google's services is much like taking a taxi cab. I certainly wouldn't blame the cab driver for a not so good meal at a restaurant.

    Our country is becoming more service oriented and people are struggling with that, especially older generations that grew up during the industrial age. Porter should focus on companies that don't innovate or provide services their customers actually want. While the rest of corporate America struggles (and some crumble) in a down economy, Google is still going strong and will not be asking Congress for any bailout money.

    Does this mean everyone should love Google? Absolutely not. There are plenty of other service providers out there for those that despise all things Google.

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