Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Google IS Advertising


Recently, New Lamp Press got a letter from Google. No, really. We couldn’t have been more surprised, given how small we are and how big, how enormously big, Google is. Opening the envelope made us even curiouser.

Inside were two documents, one a letter with a headline saying “Promote your business in Tucson with Adwords Express.” This letter had details on really nice paper (and fine print on the back). Also on the back of both the letter and the envelope was the symbol of the Forest Stewardship Council, stating the both were from responsible sources. Huh?

What is it they want me to think? That they, Google—as they so often like to say—are the good guys? Why should I think that, when the letter is so slick I doubt it can be recycled? It gets worse. The other document in the envelope was slicker; it was super-slick, letter-sized cardstock; a highly-inked promotion that can’t be recycled. And . . . attached to it was a credit-card-sized piece of plastic offering “$100 Free Advertising.” No way in hell that can be recycled. So why make a big thing about “responsible sources”?

But the real question here is why did we, tiny New Lamp Press, get this snail mail from great big Google? (And, I should mention, no email.) Why, especially, since we don’t yet advertise—at all. Why would Google contact us? Unless . . . they’re contacting everybody who doesn’t already advertise with Google. I’ll say it again: everybody! With non-recyclable junk mail!

You see, contrary to the opinion of some, Google does not yet own everything. So far “Google . . . had ‘only’ a 10 percent share of the ad industry.” Ten percent of the entire ad industry! That quote comes from In The Plex by Steven Levy. Here’s another: “The core of Google’s business, 99 percent of its revenue, lies in its sale of advertising.”

To Google, everything is a medium for advertising. If you don’t believe me, here’s another In The Plex quote (from a Google Senior Vice President): “We don’t monetize the thing we create. We monetize the people that use it.” In Google’s eyes, we humans are just opportunities for advertising.

However, those of us at New Lamp Press view advertising, at best, as a necessary evil. We also think that those of us who are asked to advertise should consider if we should before deciding how we would. Google may be all about advertising, but we prefer to stand with George Orwell, who said: “Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

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