Don Marti

Sat 10 Dec 2005 12:28:33 AM PST

Google Analytics and saving the media we need

Programs such as Google Analytics and AdSense Referrals show that Google is already starting to offer advertisers and publishers a better deal in the text ad market.

Looking at it from the content site point of view, this smells like something that could totally change the media business, or maybe I should say finish the change in the media business that the web started.

How about this for a future: in order to run a content site you don't need an ad sales force, you just need Google. You don't need a marketing department or reader surveys, you just need Google. Or whichever one of the text ad vendors is giving you the best combination of money and tools today. Probably Google, since they don't have cash cows outside the text ad business to protect, but that's another story.

This could be an incredible hollowing out of the media business. The "business side" is getting the same Silicon Valley Make Your Job Obsolete Magic from Google that typesetting and pasteup got from Atex, Adobe, and Apple.

The only problem is, it has to work. Some kinds of media can fail and we won't miss them. Other kinds of media aren't allowed to fail.

For example, the daily newspaper is as important a link in the information chain as the clerk at the courthouse who makes copies of legal documents for you. We have a First Amendment right to do independent journalism not because it's important for someone to have the right to do journalism, but because it's important for people to actually do it.

Fortunately, we have a way to tell if media disintermediation is going to work. Find people who are way ahead of the curve, and watch them. If you're interested in making disintermediated media succeed, help them. So here are some point people, canaries in the coal mine, pioneers, whatever you want to call them.

  1. Jonathan Corbet: Extra services are nice, but Google is eventually going to have to make with the cash to keep its AdSense sites happy, and keep them from straying off to Microsoft or Yahoo. If the Text Ad Wars work right, LWN will do well. But if an A-list content site such as LWN isn't seeing enough revenue to do the Google-based content business model, that's a warning sign.

  2. Dan Gillmor: The daily newspaper business model is falling apart, but the political role of the daily newspaper is more important than ever. If the great Bayosphere experiment to save local journalism doesn't make it, we're in trouble.

  3. John Buckman: It's easy to say that the music business is hopelessly broken and that it's time to start over, but actually doing it is another matter. Making musicians happy with download, CD, and license revenues is, in the long run, the freedom-loving Web's most powerful defense against calls for recartelization.