When Viacom President, Mel Karmazin, visited the Google HQ in 2003, it represented a meeting of two very different ways of doing business, in particular of making money from advertising. Karmazin was old school, having cut his teeth selling radio ads, pitching his way up to billion-dollar deals. The Google trinity — Larry, Eric and Sergey — spent hours trying to convince Karmazin how their algorithms could answer the adman’s dilemma: I know half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.
By the end of the meeting, Karmazin felt affronted that these upstarts thought they could tell him how to do his business … and yet … he must have sensed the zeitgeist of the Google vision when he uttered the great phrase: “You’re fucking with the magic!” (recounted in Googled by Ken Auletta)
This became something of a catchphrase within Google, especially as they well and truly fucked the magic by posting ever more humungous quarterly profits based on their algorithm-based ad auction model.
However, as powerful as the secret algorithms are, without one other element, Google could not have gone beyond being a mere search engine; a second keystone is trust. People trust Google in ways they do not trust other companies, such as Microsoft. Google ads are discreet and easy to ignore, and the return is an unstoppable flow of inspired products, given away for free!
The result of this trust is that you can rely on your users / fans to do a lot of the promotional legwork for you (Apple shares this enviable position). The best current example of user-driven marketing is this season’s hot invite, GooglePlus. Early invitees post most often about how much they love the G+, leading to the prescription from the Fake AP Stylebook that “GooglePlus” should only be used in cases of extreme enthusiasm, i.e. “the war against Eastasia is going GooglePlus well.”
All of which brings me back to the title. Maybe it’s time to change things again. In return for exploiting our data for profit and relying on us to promote new advertising vehicles, how about a little payback? Micropayments for early adopters / promoters, for example. A Pay-Per-Puff model (copyright riabacon.com). I don’t want to fuck with the magic of Google, but I don’t see why more people couldn’t benefit from their tentacular growth, starting with me, of course ;-P