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. identicon
    Brian Critchfield, 6 Apr 2009 @ 4:09pm

    At YUDU, we struggle with the same issue

    I work for a competing site to Scribd named YUDU (http://www.yudu.com). Our heritage is in the publishing industry, so we try and protect content and copyrights as much as possible. However, it is a constant balance between freedom to publish and copyright protection. We have language when a user goes to publish that warns against copyright abuse and each person is required to confirm they have the right to publish the document. However, copyright abuses can still occur.

    In the end, we rely on user policing more than anything. Reports of copyright abuse are taken very seriously and are dealt with quickly. However, our site is a bit different from our competitors in the fact that we not only offer free publishing and distribution but we also have a marketplace for purchasing eBooks and digital content. As such, we have to be a little more vigilant on copyright issues.

    Many of our clients are traditional publications, such as magazines and newspapers. The number of users is very appealing to this industry because it offers a virtual newsstand. It almost creates a chicken or egg scenario.

    In the end, we believe the positives outweigh the negatives significantly. We have thousands of authors who offer teaser editions on YUDU.com in order to sell more of their books and musicians who upload their music for the purpose of acquiring more listeners. The freedom to share your expertise with the world is limitless.

    Traditional media has the chance to either continue to condemn these new content distribution models and risk being left behind, or embrace them, as many of our clients have, and reap the enormous benefits. This is truly a tipping point in the publishing industry.

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