Google has been placing more and more crap around search results, which is very annoying, but it turns out this crapification may work out quite well for the giant internet company. That's reportedly because people can't really tell anymore what's a Google advertisement and what's a Google search result, turning the simple act of internet searching into a confusing profitable mess.
Well, this is certainly interesting: Google's CEO Larry Page knew all about ads his company ran for an illegal Mexican drug ring run by a convicted con artist and described in detail to Google executives. But the advertisements for illicit steroids were allowed to continue because, hey, more revenue for Google.
Is YouTube making Google a political player? The video-sharing site, with its stratospheric bandwidth bills and questionable new ad formats, may never pay Larry and Sergey back in cash for the $1.65 billion they shelled out to buy it in 2006. But it doesn't have to. YouTube, having conquered online video, is taking over political broadcasting. The conventional unwisdom in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., is that this election made YouTube. Pah! It's true that campaign videos spread faster than ever thanks to YouTube. But they made up a tiny fraction of clips and traffic on the site. Politicians owe YouTube a debt that Google is just starting to collect on — and hosting President Obama's 21st century fireside chats is just a down payment.Google has plenty of business in Washington these days, from the Federal Communications Commission to the Department of Justice. Convenient, then, that CEO Eric Schmidt endorsed Obama weeks before the election, joining his board of economic advisors and appearing in Obama's primetime infomercial. Schmidt doesn't need a government job — he's clearly volunteering to be America's CTO in his spare time. Schmidt is savvy enough to realize that YouTube's growing prominence as a media outlet could help the company become a larger political player — which is why the site sponsored two campaign debates. Traffic? Come on. YouTube hardly needs the help. Schmidt — who attended one debate with a mistress on his arm, like an old-school power broker — orchestrated the events to maximize Google's political influence. The outgoing administration has not been friendly to Google, whose management team tilts strongly to the left. The Department of Justice's threat to sue Google if it proceeded with a deal to sell search ads for Yahoo may have been, at least in part, politically motivated. Google mostly wants a free hand from Washington to cement its lead in online advertising — but it also wants help bullying telephone and cable companies into letting its services and ads flow unimpeded on high-speed broadband lines and cell phones, a cause it has dubbed "network neutrality." Network neutrality is an abstract issue. But YouTube, helpfully, makes it very concrete to politicians, who have long understood the power of the moving image to influence the public. It's easy to picture Google lobbyists pulling up a politician's YouTube videos, and asking them, "Now how would you feel if Verizon slowed down your videos? Wouldn't it be wrong if AT&T didn't let customers view them on their cell phones?" Even in its copyright enforcement, Google can club politicians. The McCain campaign complained about YouTube's takedown policy, which has a mandatory waiting period before videos whose rights are disputed can be reposted to the site. Will Democratic politicians — or any politician who votes the right way on network neutrality — find that a YouTube account manager is glad to make that kind of problem quietly go away? It's a symbiotic relationship, to be sure. Google helps politicians reach young voters on YouTube and hosts their videos for free. YouTube benefits from the free content and the traffic political videos generate; even if it doesn't sell ads directly on the pages, it's estimated that it could make $1 billion a year on search ads — and in that business, merely cementing YouTube's traffic lead helps Google make money. In that light, isn't there something that stinks about handing the president's weekly addresses to a single commercial outlet controlled by a political ally of the president? Obama's YouTube chats amount to a large, unspoken, behind-the-scenes government kickback. Every election has something dirty about it. And there's no question Google won this contest.
The Wall Street Journal's Pepper ... & Salt has never been particularly cutting-edge. But a recent cartoon reads like a time capsule: An entrepreneur at startup WotsHot.com says, "Here's our timetable: launch, grow rapidly, be bought by Google." How quaint! During the lean years earlier in the decade, when Google was the only show in town, startups may have dreamt of getting bought by Google. But more recently, getting bought by Google has proven a nightmare, albeit a lucrative one. The oldtimers at YouTube are resting and vesting, watching the clocks tick. JotSpot's wiki product languished for a year before getting relaunched in barely functional form. Measure Map, a Web-traffic analysis startup, was similarly buried.And who can blame them? Google coddles engineers, but it also suffocates them. With the free food, massages, and laundry come a quirky set of in-house technologies and an increasingly bureaucratic, insider-driven culture. A favored clique of Google-IPO lottery winners rule over what's supposed to be a meritocracy. Marissa Mayer, Larry Page's ex-girlfriend, rules with an iron fist over what features see the light of day in Google's all-important search engine. Google used to pitch startups on the notion of selling to them rather than give a stake to VCs; Chris Sacca, a former Googler expert in peddling empty promises, led this effort. Not surprising that it didn't work out. Google is now getting into the VC business itself — a tacit acknowledgement that it is no longer an attractive destination for startup founders. As an investor, Google gets a look at new technologies and talents. Entrepreneurs get to keep their freedom. Funny, freedom is exactly what Google used to promise the companies it acquired — and what it no longer has to offer. (Cartoon by Pepper & Salt/WSJ)
Lefty think tanks Essential Action and the Institute for Policy Studies have a new study out titled “High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel is Straining the System, Warming the Planet and Costing You Money." It implies some not-so-nice things about jet owners and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — even if they are left-leaning, Prius-driving friends of Bono. According to the report, private jets negatively impact:
Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared his deep thoughts in a conversation with the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, and News.com's Dan Farber was there to transcribe the sermon. Shareholders might be a little surprised by statements like "Our goal is to change the world. Monetization is a technology to pay for it." But the real nut is how Google executives have been slowly backing away from the company's "Don't be evil" pledge.
A former neo-Facist, Gianni Alemanno, is the new mayor of Rome. He got the job promising to bulldoze homeless encampments, deport foreign criminals and install surveillance cameras, all in an effort to be tough of crime. So it isn't surprising to read reports that when Google's black Street View car, with its 360-degree camera mounted on top, came rolling down Viale Trastevere in Rome, citizens on the street immediately fled as though it were a horde of brick-wielding blackshirts chanting Me ne frego!
Google's video-sharing site YouTube began hosting a channel for The Church of Scientology last month. It's a "sponsored" channel, so Scientology pays for the privilege as well as for the Scientology ads YouTube also began serving in April. Now a group of Scientology critics have accused Google of banning users critical of Scientology in order to win the Church's advertising business.
CEOs and founders feeling hounded by pesky profit-hating humanitarians could learn a lesson or two from Google cofounder Sergey Brin. At Google's annual shareholder meeting yesterday, Amnesty International presented two shareholder proposals on behalf of the New York State Pension Funds involving Google's difficulties with China, privacy and censorship. Brin handled the PR mess, no problem.
The dollar's sinking value wasn't the only reason Google crushed Wall Street's expectations for the company's first quarter. The Church of Scientology helped, in its own small way. The church paid for advertising space on YouTube to convey its message that "you are an immortal spiritual being. Your capabilities are unlimited." That is, if you can stomach the olive oil shots and spare a little cash. We're surprised Google's human filters didn't catch the ad. We've heard they're plenty familiar with the way an organization can use crafty words to create false expectations in order to lure warm bodies.
Is it jet lag that causes executives' lips to loosen overseas? Surely Google VP Marissa Mayer must understand that words uttered in Australia will reach California much faster than a Qantas flight. Her indiscretion down under: Backing away from Google's informal motto, "don't be evil," in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. "It really wasn't like an elected, ordained motto," Mayer told the newspaper. "I think that 'Don't Be Evil' is a very easy thing to point at when you see Google doing something that you personally don't like." Mayer then gave this dodge when asked if Google should be held to a higher standard than its competitors:
A recently departed DoubleClicker tells us that Google managers asked employees at the online ad company it acquired last month to sign one-year noncompete agreements. Most agreed, thinking that it would spare their jobs — but then layoffs came a week later. They were "pretty pissed" over the bait-and-switch and were forced to find jobs outside their industry. The text of the noncompete is below.