Google’s Hairy Mainstream Pickle

Media's demand for special treatment puts Google in a tight spot

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Who knew something stupid like “Rickrolling” would become such a problem for Google? Thanks to an Internet fad, Rick Astley’s one 1980’s hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” and video were played on YouTube 154 million times.

The royalties the song’s creators received from that sudden revival? About 16 bucks. The pittance they received was legal thanks to a licensing deal Google struck with the record company, a licensing deal Google refused to renew.

This problem echoes, of course, the fire Google is facing from news publishers, who claim Google devalues content and profits from doing so. The argument is also queerly duplicitous: Musicians, record companies, and news organizations don’t want Google to stop featuring their content, they just want a bigger piece of the online advertising pie.

Nick Carr, who’s been wrong about lots of stuff lately (Google making us stupid comes to mind), describes this crazy pickle as though the rules of pickle have been rewritten: the guy in the middle has all the power. Content creators need Google as a middleman even though the middleman destroys their ability to make money. (This theory, obviously, assumes that’s what is really happening: that content creators can’t make money with or without Google.)

But Carr’s picked the wrong pickle. What you might call the mainstream media is muscling for licensing deals while simultaneously demanding Google carry their content. While it’s true the exposure’s good for them and they need that exposure as the Internet (not Google) destroys their old business models, they’re strong-arming is forcing Google into an ever-tightening position. Why? Because Google can’t possibly strike licensing deals with every content creator operating on the Internet.

In the past upstarts were happy with the exposure Google gave them and it was a nice reciprocal relationship. Google indexed content and made it findable, and did it so well content creators jockeyed fiercely to be indexed and ranked highly. Though they complained when not ranked high enough that was the limit to their supposed entitlement. The “mainstream” is now seeking entitlement beyond free promotion, and by doing so is threatening not just Google’s middleman business but smaller content creators everywhere by ensuring preferable treatment.

And that makes it anticompetitive.

Google’s biggest mistake was forging licensing deals in the first place to avoid problematic litigation from big time players. Now leeches from all over are lining up for their cut of the action. It’s time Google started playing hardball to protect its own business model. One way it could do this is take this fair use argument to the Supreme Court and have the indexing, snippeting, and linking debate put to rest forever.

Or, Google could take the cheaper route by exercising the leverage it already has, the leverage the company has exercised on smaller outlets for years: delist from its index any media outlet demanding licensing deals. 

While that would seem a just reaction, if Google did so antitrust complaints would follow faster than you can say “monopoly.” The quest to index the world’s information becomes one hairy pickle indeed.

Google’s Hairy Mainstream Pickle
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  • Joseph


    hOPE you had a great Easter my man!

    Yea, Its seems the whole content scene has become crazy,

    Great Article, and I will just keep reading & Watching this whole thing unfold.

    Keep us updated if you notice or see anything.

    I liked the “the leverage the company has exercised on smaller outlets for years: delist from its index any media outlet demanding licensing deals. ” part…..

    Could you imagine if they did that to ALL of the big boys, man, first they are all losing there actual “papers” but if they were to get de indexed, man, that could make some media companies crumble.

    I guess we will see,

    Thanks for the article Brother !!


    • Jason Lee Miller

      Thanks Joseph. Easter with the fam is always glam you know…lotsa delicious ham.

      didn’t mean to rhyme like that

      if they do delist, it will be fun to watch the lawsuits flying around…but nobody else so far has been successful with the “google won’t list me” suit…should be fun

  • http://www.spreadingyourknowledge.com almir

    very interesting article that really funny how google has come under fire at times but they always find someway to dig themselves out of their own messes or troubles

  • http://www.scritube.com Scritube

    i like your says: “legal thanks to a licensing deal Google” !!!

    what did you mean with legal thanks?

    • Jason Lee Miller

      Sorry my syntax was confusing to you. I meant Google played the song and video legally because they had a licensing deal with the record company. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.lingerie-angel.co.uk Lingerie Angel

    I’m not sure that the media has much bargaining power here. They rely so heavily on Google for traffic that without them their businesses will decline even faster.

    Instead of going after licensing deals with Google media companies should instead focus on developing niche paid content sites. They have the audience and credibility – they just need to develop superb content now which people would be willing to pay for.

  • http://www.Nurburg.eu FaTe

    They shouldn’t be given any special treatment at all there money grabbing bandits and have enough cash of their own to pay or work for it too happen like everyone else.

    Lazy gits

  • http://www.vipdistinct.com Lifestyle Management

    That would be hilarious if they were made to pay royal fees to Rick, then they really would be RickRolled :)

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