The Magic Goes Away

There’s an intriguing post on CNNMoney on how Google’s business model undermines not just newspaper advertising, something that’s been pointed out for a long time, but advertising itself:

“You buy a commercial in the Super Bowl, you’re going to pay $2.5 million for the spot. I have no idea if it’s going to work. You pay your money, you take your chances.”

On the topic of pay per click, Karmazin concluded:

“That’s the worst kind of business model in the world. You don’t want to have people know what works. When you know what works you tend to charge less money than when you have this aura and you’re selling this mystique.”

If that’s right the success of Google doesn’t just spell doom for paper newspapers. It’s the end of newspapers, radio, television, and any other medium that depends on “selling this mystique”. It’s the end of mass culture, the growth of which is what really ended the Great Depression.

In the future we may be able to delineate sharp boundaries between epochs. From 1920, the year of the first commercial radio broadcast, to 1998, the founding of Google, may be distinguished as the age of mass culture. From 1998 onwards, as we sit in the middle of it, we can only think of it as the age of Google.

4 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    I’ve been in a low-key battle with publishing for 7 years on the subject of book tour. I keep asking how in God’s name it makes sense to fly me across country (no longer coach) and put me up in a hotel (4 star or better) and pay my bar tab (considerable) so that I can attend events that may move just 20 or 30 books.

    Magic. Or, more to the point, they can’t think of anything else to do, and this is how they’ve always done it. Cluelessness and inertia explain a great deal in this world.

  • so that I can attend events that may move just 20 or 30 books.

    Offhand and not knowing a great deal about the book business, I’d suggest that it was customer relations. Recall that retail book customers are not publishers’ customers. I’m sure you make entertaining appearances.

  • michael reynolds


    Oh, I’m great at schools. At book stores it’s pretty hard to be charming sitting at one of those tables ticking off the minutes before you can bail out. I think of store visits as ritual humiliation.

    I should mention that part of what they’re up to is a lame effort to game the NYT list. The NYT doesn’t use sales from across the industry, they use sales as reported by “reporting stores.” The identity of the reporting stores is Top Secret Ultra Eyes Only, so I’m pretty sure that no more than 95% of people in the business know who they are. Jake actually knows how to sign on and report numbers, but we have thus far resisted the urge.

  • Guarneri


    I don’t pretend to know the book business, but I’d suggest that Dave has a point at distribution and that at retail 30 “hits” become 90 become…..

    Just a thought.

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