In Which The Publishing Industry Continues To Exhibit A Profound Lack Of Understanding Of The Real World

September 25th, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

There is a saying that, if we recall correctly, suggests that closing the barn door after the horse escapes is rather foolish. Unless you are really trying to protect hay, in which case, you may ultimately be seen as practical. We are not sure the latest scheme initiated by publishers will be seen as practical, possibly because it does not seem to, oh, show an awareness of how the world works.

Let us begin with a bit of positivity: creating smart “use” tags — a concept called digital rights management in the real world — to identify levels of content usage by third parties is a great idea. By making the rules for reusing content perfectly clear, publishers of said content will make the lives of millions easier. Machine- and human-readable, standardized markup is a good thing.

However, it will only seriously impact those who are publishing content on their websites. Search engines, we all know, don’t generally republish content in total as part of the search results (the Google cached version being a notable exception, though that is rarely the first choice of searchers). They function more like this: someone (for sake of clarity, you) types a series of words into a search box, the software pokes around its memory a bit until results matching said series of words are returned, you then pop over to various websites to see if you’ve found what you are seeking. Repeat as necessary.

Because of the way search works, the returned results may or may not form coherent sentences. And while all the key words may be present in the search results, they may not be together in a manner that offers meaningful search results to users. That’s where targeted advertising comes in. See, there are advertisers out there who have products that fulfill the needs outlined in the search terms. When you search, those ads are displayed — this differs from your standard commercial in that you get results personalized to your needs — and if the ads meet your requirements or pique your interest, you click on them. That’s how the Google revenue stream works. They make money from the content of others only insofar as that content provides lovely words to fulfill search criteria. The content generally remains in the hot little hands of the content owner.

Publishers who complain that Google and its brethren are making money from their content are missing the point. If Google and other search services do not have lots of content to digest, then they have limited results to return to users. In turn, lack of search engine indexing means lack of traffic to those sites with relevant content. Unless the publishers are planning to provide some sort of detailed (and by detailed, we mean basically rewriting the article) synopsis along with their tags, they are losing customers.

And, yes, we are going to keep repeating ourself until the publishing industry stops acting like the Internet was invented yesterday.

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File Under: The Future of Publishing