Google is making the web poorer.

Adland reported that global brands are finally are shunning Google advertising. In many news sources around the web, people have made their opinions heard about this development - which seems to have come as a surprise to the people who relied on the Google-machine the most for their income.
What happened is so simple to comprehend, it could be drawn out on a neat little blackboard as an ecosystem demonstration for third graders. And yet so many who make their living online refuse to understand how the system works, nor how they allowed the biggest brood parasites of the system to grow strong. Instead they're being cuckoo for Youtube views.

So many in my profession have preached to the big media companies to "go to where the audience is," to make all of their paid-for content available for free on platforms like Youtube, Flickr, et al. Over and over they preached to the established media to change everything they did, inadvertently creating many more hands holding the income-earning content. They never quite got around to explaining how the income would be earned, but they sure walked away with huge lecturing fees in their pockets. There was never a decent discussion about how income would be earned once you relinquished control of your content to Youtube (or any other platform) at the time. Advertisers and media companies just followed the false prophets with blind faith.
When photography rights owners such as museums followed this advice and uploaded their entire library to Flickr and marking it CC, they literally gave away their government-funded paycheck to a non-tax paying company in San Francisco. The mushrooming of companies that acted as little more than data sifters enabled Silicon Valley to build entire new glass aquarium areas to throw pretend money around. And all the while it was just assumed that museums would benefit from this, and newspapers and TV channels would survive from giving away their content. The “gurus,” assured them all would be fine. They had advertising income thanks to their audience and size. We all know how well that worked.

Beyond the question of revenue was audience. Placing ads online guaranteed a larger audience—which became a problem. Brands who advertise need to be seen in areas that the brand "aligns with." This used to be a carefully constructed space that media buyers worked hard to find. Even before the explosion of online media, the ad agencies who embraced it, made executions that spawned new media types. Nicorette signs in the London underground come to mind. The same continued with online with the likes of Subservient Chicken. It took some time, but now some have come to the conclusion that just because the audience grew, it didn’t mean it was the right audience.
On Youtube, your brands’ ads might end up on an ISIS beheading video, on pirated content, or even on your brand competitor’s ads. What was once a big promise turned into a minefield where brands could suffer boycotts for almost anything they did. Now it’s even worse because we've moved away from the era when what was in your ad got you boycotted. These days where your ad is placed is the problem - or who you partner with. Brand tweets that they're against bullying? Boycott. Pull your Kellogg's ads from Breitbart? Boycott. Naturally, as Youtube has grown into the "TV" platform of the internet, each channel is a different brand with vastly different content. In traditional terms, you could choose to run your ad during Sons of Anarchy instead of on the Golf Channel. On Youtube, there are targeted media buys like the Youtube Masthead, for example. But by and large, it's is out of the brand’s control. Buying an ad on Youtube is a bit like buying an ad on thousands of cable channels & local TV at any hour of the day. You have no idea if it ended up before a cute kitten compilation or ISIS propaganda.
The parental controls on Youtube are there for a good reason. There are plenty of channels that are inappropriate for children under a certain age. LGBTQ groups protested immediately as plenty of LGBTQ channels were suddenly filtered due to the fact that they're often talking about sex and sexuality - claiming this was some sort of anti-gay censorship by Google. But even a random search shows that’s not exactly the case, as this channel targeted to pre-schoolers discussing sexuality is not filtered at all. For a while it seemed like Silicon Valley would really become successful at shifting our ethics to fit their technology. The genie is out of the bottle, nothing can be done. Information wants to be free, etc. But it turned out there were plenty of parents out there who wish their kids would not come into contact with anything regarding sex & sexuality until puberty hits, along with violent imagery and blood & gore-filled video games which is exactly why so many popular Youtubers are now filtered.
As Youtube implemented their channel labelling, hiding now "controversial" channels such as PewDiePIe's, Jontron's and thousands of other Youtubers, right-wing pundit Paul Joseph Watson is immediately claiming this is censorship. But he is missing the big picture. You can see any channels as long as you're signed in to Youtube and above a certain age. This means that Google now has better knowledge of who watches which channels. Not only that with your android phones that require Google login, they know exactly where these people are, at all times, too. As well as when they are home, and what they are doing there. If I were Paul I'd consider the ramifications of a single private company that knows your every move, political opinions, and even your route to work.

The rallying cry for leaving Youtube is now being heard again, but people forget that by uploading their content to a centralized hub in the first place they created Youtube. Monty Python videos were uploaded to youtube on the daily for years, then removed by the copyright holders who were trapped like a modern Sisyphus in a job that would never end as Youtube did nothing - and still does nothing - to prevent pirated content from being uploaded. Eventually Monty Python gave up and created a youtube channel. Paul Joseph Watson works for Alex Jones' Infowars - why are they uploading videos to youtube and cultivating an audience on a platform they can not control? Why is the BBC doing the same? CNN, FOX, hell everyone including Sweden's public service channels are uploaded to Youtube. Like the BBC, Sweden's SVT is paid for by requiring all who own a television or radio to buy a TV License, and subsidized by tax money. Why are we handing that content, for free, to a company that is notorious for not paying taxes?

It was obvious that the web would be video in the future; I bet my free time on it creating this website back in 1996. But pre-2005, people still had the sense to use their own platforms and cultivated the ideas of social networking together and news spreading with everything from FOAF to RSS. Staying true to the decentralized roots that made early internet an unkillable network. What happened was we took a hard turn toward a centralized web, where just three major players own literally everything -- and they got this big thanks to you. The irony to me is that the world’s largest advertising company - Google - has the image of being free from advertising, ever since they launched a pure white search page in the late 90s. Both Brin and Page wrote a research paper against "advertising funded search engines" in 1998 as that was in vogue at the time. But money talks and advertising is a goldmine. Especially when your sellable media is other people’s content, other people’s blogs, even other people’s newspapers. Google doesn't have to create anything, they just put ads on it. But now the effects are obvious even to the dense. By making Google rich, we are making the web poorer.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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kidsleepy's picture

Glad you mentioned Monty Python being shaken down to start a channel whether they wanted one or not. Becoming an online cable was google's plan all along. Once the regular people built up the content, and generated enough eyeballs, google could show it had a robust ad network in place. But what the regular content creators like Paul Joseph Watson and PewDiePie don't understand is, they aren't needed any more. Google wants the big networks and big fish. PewDiePie has almost 54 million subscribers, true but the number of views he gets per video is inconsistent, and never anywhere near that number. Checking now I see as little as three million and as many s sixteen-- a far cry from his subscriber numbers.
Perhaps this is a little bit of "What Google giveth, Google can taketh away," which to your point is all the more reason to dump them.

James Trickery's picture

The Monty Python shenanigans was a lot like a mobster shakedown, Youtube's own bot-networks were constantly uploading thousands of skits daily and in the end it cost Monty Python too much time to remove it that they had to start a channel. Once they had an established channel they could use Youtube's service for removing pirated skits.

Youtube have the ability to see what is in each clip uploaded as they're transcoded. For example, this guy had a Nazi flag in his video background, so to comply with some European countries laws this lip has been blocked from viewing in those countries. The clip owner has been notified via some auto-mail.

You might ask yourself why isn't youtube using their graphical recognition skills to prevent uploads of things that are clearly trademarked (logos). They could easily prevent all uploads of pirated movies by recognising the intros. They already have a system in place that removes music from videos if they copyright holder has paid them to do so.

The problem is that this always puts the "little guy" in a bind. The people who can not afford to pay for youtubes service will have to manually remove the videos people have pirated from them. They have to waste time filing counter-claims on bot-caused DMCA claims that are false. Etc. Or in the case of Monty Python you end up in a "can't beat them join them" area. Once they became the center of all things video, we gave them the power to decide what video we get to watch. This was bound to happen.

Wak's picture

Because Google's image recognition cannot determine context.

Sport's picture

They could determine that manually after an automatic flag. What they are doing right now is the other way around, which is why they have their current troubles.

Wak's picture

At the scale YouTube operates that'd be a Sisyphean task that would still have a lot of false positives. Sometimes the full context isn't present without doing research on all the individual speakers as well.

Andreas--'s picture

Not if implemented logically. Trademark owners and partners can prove they are at account setup, so those go through without human eyes. Anyone else can check "parody" or something, which sends it to a human check before being monetized/published. People who just rip films will be stopped dead in their tracks while remixers and commentators will only have a delay. Considering the money Google makes off other people's intellectual property, it shouldn't be all that difficult for the to insert a combo of automated and human checks to keep this system running smoothly. It's just that they have proven time and time again over the years to not give two shits about anyone elses IP, and they rely on algorithms heavily, which is how we ended up in the current situation where YouTubers who create original content are automatically demonetized because Google just doesn't care.

Wak's picture

No degree of logical implementation would work. The number of people Google would have to hire would be enormous and it'd still be awful given that low-skilled workers tend not to be good at making consistently reasonable legal interpretations of unintuitive bundles of case law. Sure, they can work around the edges with taking out direct rips and content uploaded by registered trademark owners that include pics of their own trademark, but the ease stops there.

Dabitch's picture

So it is like The Register headline says, the smartest people in the room can't figure it out. And the side effect of that is that brands do not want to risk it and content creators get shafted.

anonymous101's picture

> the number of people would have to hire

Is your argument really "it would create too many jobs" when unemployment in the USA is 6.9%?

Vinzenz Stemberg's picture

There's also some bitter irony in the best way to fight them is to use one of the other "big content" guys. How're we all finding out when google's been naughty or nice? Twitter. How do we initially find out about Twitter bans? Facebook. How did we learn Facebook auto-purges 'irrelevant' news sites? Youtube. And somewhere in the mix 60% of the people browse all 3 sites on Apple.

Think there's an appropriate Smashing Pumpkins song about cages that you could play right now. For anyone that doesn't already have it in their Apple library, they'd probably go to the appropriate Youtube Vevo.

Although one funny thing has been while the web has centralised, coding hasn't. While most things work the same or are recognised by most any browser, java, python, jscript, flash, html5, etc, every so often I'll have the latest up to date version yet still run into "Your browser is out of date please nab this nonexistent update to view this content." For some reason twitter is the biggest culprit. Every little change behind the scenes seems to break it. I don't even acknowledge people trying to send me video links on that anymore.

Wak's picture

Be careful what you ask for, Dabitch.

If Google goes away, the Internet isn't suddenly going to become de-centralized again. Microsoft would aggressively move to fill the gaping hole where Google once stood.

Believe me - if you think things are bad under Google, you'd be miserable under Microsoft. With Google it's a lackadaisical attitude. With Microsoft it's control freak city.

Shika's picture

Judging by your other comments here, you seem to have a vested interestest in Google staying the status quo, you are at least indifferent to their failures of inserting checks and balances for something they charge billions of dollars for. Why is that?

The decentralisation process Dabitch is talking about would only give Microsoft an advantage if you relied on their hardware. These days with the cloud servers, Amazon is a more likely king of that hill.