Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It Is Not Evil, It Is Business

Google is a smart company - smart enough for many people to be surprised after they witness this or that move or an acquisition, surprised enough to say "Why has not anyone thought of that move earlier?" And now it seems that Google has finally realized that it sends way too much traffic from its search results pages to websites that do not contribute to Google's business. What would be the correct move for a business when faced by such a discovery? Find a way to make money by sending traffic to your own properties.

And this is exactly what Google needs Knol for: Google must be tired of being the major source of traffic for Wikipedia and many other independent publishers and now it looks for new ways to further monetize its own business. And for that it simply needed to have a platform of its own to be able to bring tons of content to internet users easily - and displace competitors from the search results. In this particular case Google serves as a full-cycle company: it provides the platform (Knol itself), the revenue (AdSense) and, finally, the distribution (search).

Google decided that by offering people to monetize their contributions to the encyclopedia of their own they will attract those same people that contribute to Wikipedia out of their own free will and understanding of what good is. Unfortunately, this type of people should be motivated otherwise, and since Google has chosen the easiest motivation factor that ever existed, it ended up with people looking for some quick profit for their contributions - and rarely caring about the quality of contributions at all.

Sure, we hear lots of complaints about Knol already. It is quite obvious that from the day 1 of Knol launch we should have expected voices pointing at spam on Knol created in order to get revenue by building a page on a popular term. It was so obvious that it is almost ridiculous to complain about it now. The explanation here is that no matter what service people use they invariably are motivated by something. And often the motivation offered by the service determines exactly what type of users it will attract eventually.

But will poor quality of content stop Google from acting as a content company? I don't think so. If there's anything that could prevent independent publishers from getting lost in the 3rd and subsequent pages of Google search results, it is simply lack of income Google generates by ads on Knol. But that would take having everybody stop clicking ads completely. Is that realistic? I can hardly believe it and I don't see a way the independent publishers could succeed in a campaign to make an average internet Joe stop clicking Google's ads on Google's Knols - correct me if I'm wrong.