It’s a year since I wrote a post suggesting that Google was a ‘slow mo train crash unfolding’.
Google grew popular (and rich) by helping individuals use information as a tool in their own hands, and by basing its business model on volunteered information – information that individuals willingly provided (the search term) because of the value they got back (search results).
Online stalking – or online behavioural targeting – is the opposite of this. It’s got nothing to do with helping individuals use information as a tool in their own hands (‘relevance’ is a term used by advertisers to create response uplift and is largely bogus in this context). And it’s the exact opposite of the volunteered approach exemplified by search: behavioural targeting is (as I said then) “murky and underhand” giving individuals less control, not more.
Google grew trust and revenues by acting first and foremost as an information service to indviduals (and, as a byproduct) a marketing service to suppliers. But now it has swtiched its mindset and business model to become just another mechanism to deliver audiences to advertisers.
What made Google great has been jettisoned; the trust it had with the public is in terminal decline and from now on its problems can only mount.
Three straws in the wind:
- A senior executive explaining why he has left Google, disillusioned.
- The tricks it used to bypass iPhone users’ security – prompting new privacy investigations by regulators
In my old blog I described the trajectory of brand in decline like this: “Instead of commanding the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion, suspicion and hostility grows amongst politicians, regulators and the media. Yesterday, the brand could do no wrong. Now it’s as if it can’t do anything right.
“Innovators begin to take their great ideas elsewhere. Brilliant staff leave for brighter opportunities; it becomes harder to attract and retain good people. And almost imperceptibly – and crucially – how the leadership team spends its time and attention begins to shift from ‘seizing opportunities’ to firefighting: fending off criticisms and coping with problems.”
All the signs are that this is exactly what’s happening at Google.