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Tough times ahead for Google, even tougher for Google News. The day of human judgment is coming. 8/14/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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Listening to conventional wisdom, it is easy to get the impression that Google has been around forever, is run and staffed by the smartest people on the planet, will grow indefinitely at a breathtaking pace, will have unlimited funds to buy any company it wants, and some day may control all of advertising, video entertainment, and news. So, it was refreshing to see InfoWorld throw a bucket of well-deserved ice water on the hysterical masses and bring us back to reality. As the article correctly notes, Google’s accomplishments to date are as impressive as they are narrow. They provide advertisers with outstanding targeted advertising opportunities through the clever tactic of using searchers’ keywords to aggregate mini-audiences of sales prospects. But, virtually all other Google projects to date “remain unproven as major revenue streams.”

So, what happens to Google’s business model if other companies suddenly offer search engines that provide better, more useful results? We are about to find out. In the near term, the article cites the superior search results provided by topic-specific sites like WebMD, Travelocity, Petfinder, and Monster. But just over the horizon, a much more dangerous predator of Google lurks — and that predator is Man.

Many believers in Google’s inevitable world dominance are making the unwarranted leap of faith that machines can make better decisions about what humans want than their fellow humans can. One of the silliest examples of this thinking comes from the journalists who produced the fictional Museum of Media History’s “EPIC 2014” video, which tries to scare us away from a world in which machines do all the work that journalists now do. Now, if newspapers continue to be mostly about reprinting stories from the AP and other news sources, I can see their point. But the Internet and cable TV have been teaching us that news consumers have broader appetites than wire stories, and also have a taste for opinions, partisanship, sensationalism, and stories of crime, human interest, sex, violence, and gossip.

When Google News can do a superior job than intervening humans in understanding, predicting, and serving all of these highly nuanced, all-too-human tastes, I will be a believer. Until then, thanks, but I prefer units that can fog a mirror to run our businesses, write our movies, help us search for the very most authoritative and useful web sites, and select and write our news stories.

Comments»

1. Adam - 8/15/07

Google is not without its problems–check out this little debacle involving their pay-to-own services.

Though I have to say that while I don’t use Google News, I do use Google Reader in order to aggregate my reading–and that’s where I get nearly all of my news and online entertainment.


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