by A Proud American
From time to time, The Awl offers its space to everyday citizens with something to say.
Another day, another battle between some country with publishing laws and America’s top advertising company, Google. Now it’s Portugal complaining about Google being an Internet business — the same Portugal that is usually in the news for causing the latest worldwide financial panic. Whenever I see stocks are plunging these days, I pretty much know without checking CNBC that Portugal is up to no good again. The other day my boss made a joke and said, “What is this Cyprus place, anyway? Some breakaway autonomous zone of Portugal?” And he might be right, who even knows anymore.
A shadowy organization called Confederação Portuguesa dos Meios de Comunicação Social is trying to stifle innovation by demanding payoffs from Google just because Google lets people find things on the Internet. Do you know how I found out about this? By using Google, that’s how. (You could probably also find out about it on the “Ask Jeeves” or “Alta Vista,” but certainly not on the Confederação Portuguesa dos Meios de Comunicação Social website, which is almost entirely in Portuguese. I guess you could use Google Translate to figure out what they’re plotting over there, but I supposed the newspapers in Portugal would want money for that, too.)
Anyway, it’s time to put a stop to these disruptive policies of the past. I used to work at a Web marketing affiliate and it frankly baffles me why anyone would be trying to stop Google from linking to your site. We’ll do basically anything to get people to link to our marketing sites — from $10 PayPal bribes to teen girls on Pinterest to giving prescription painkillers to the homeless if they use the public library computers to type our URLs into the comments at Politico. I don’t know how to speak in Portuguese, so maybe I’ll just do what I always do in Mexico, WHICH IS TO YELL THINGS VERY CLEARLY, like this: YOU PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO *WANT* TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITES!
Now that I’ve gone from scuzzy fly-by-night web marketing to ________, I see the kind of ambitious tactics we used to use in diet-supplement telemarketing and roofing estimates for seniors are the normal mode of online commerce. And like any disruptive technology, whether the way the gasoline companies killed off the whales to stop whale oil or how Radio Disney does subliminal messages to get the kids to make their parents feel like the housing collapse is over, the ultimate judgment of a method is whether it works or not.
What doesn’t work is some Old Europe bureaucracy trying to stop the flow of information, which wants to be free but needs us to skim some profits off the top. That’s why the best possible outcome is for Google to buy all these publishers and then shut them down.
This company did not get to the top of the heap by worshiping the tired old ideals of dead industries. When Google sees a smaller company doing something that Google could do better, it simply buys the company for tens of millions of dollars and immediately kills the service. If you had a lemonade stand that was doing pretty good and then the kid across the street comes up with some innovative new way to sell better lemonade for less money, do you just sit there like an idiot or do you call the cops? Well, at Mountain View “the cops” are huge amounts of money that can shut down anything, anywhere, instantly. That kid doesn’t even care about lemonade. He just wants a few bucks and then he’ll get lost.
If Google wants to keep publishing news, even from a country like Portugal, it can do that without running a whole different news publishing company with a bunch of entitlements. Get somebody in Bangalore to type up some news, run it through Google Translate, and there’s your content to support the text advertising. You can always hire the “top news guy in Portugal” or whatever, and then write him a check and make him disappear a year later. Who would even notice?
We’re not going to get from recovery to boom again until we start playing hardball with these whiners who are making a human blockade against progress.