14 March 2007 ~ 5 Comments

In Defense of Big, Bad, Google ;)

From the files of: When Passive Verbs Happen to Good People.

Recently, the WSJ (subscriber link) served up the ultimate in passive, poor me, whining. When Matt Cutts is getting quoted in the Journal, isn’t it possible we’ve gone just a bit too far? I mean, seriously, it’s a wonder the world managed to have a single entrepreneurial success story before Google debuted on the scene.

Even if traffic to Topix, which gets about 10 million visitors a month, dropped just 10%, that would essentially be a 10% loss in ad revenue, Mr. Skrenta says. “Because of this little mechanical issue, it could be a catastrophe for us,” he says.

I can’t even talk about the entire article without my blood pressure boiling over, but it reminded me of days long past at Georgia Tech. (And for the record, no, I’m not a GOOG shareholder, but I do preach accountability for a living. It strikes me as pretty convenient that website owners who have trouble monetizing that which Google gladly hand-delivers them would prefer to cry in their milk and bite the hand that feeds them rather than simply say ‘thank you’ for the free traffic and focus on building stronger business models that aren’t so dependent on un-game-able technology.)

Back to Georgia Tech. Atlanta was gearing up for the Olympic games, which were still a few years away. Major construction projects were underway all over campus, blocking access to certain roads for months, sometimes years. My house was just off one of these blocked roadways–the route known as the place to park while heading to hoops games at the Coliseum.

Being the enterprising young engineers we were, it didn’t take us long to smell opportunity. We gave birth to an impromptu parking lot … in our driveway! Through one full hoops season, revenue was good (we spent our profits on “books”). But eventually, even the slowest of construction projects wrapped up, and the need for our overflow parking lot evaporated. Being the more logical, left-brained types we were, we moved on to other new and equally “innovative” ways to make extra cash.

I wonder now why didn’t we just sit around and campaign the campus newspaper to write about the loss of our little cash cow? Why didn’t we call the university president and demand he reinstate the construction? Why didn’t we create an industry designed to divert cars from the streets drivers preferred to travel and send them along the streets that led past our front door?

If all the money spent “optimizing” search engine traffic is any indication, we should be sitting next to Mark Cuban at an owners meeting.

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