Advertising as content contributes to changes in search

Doc Searls Twitter PictureThe “must read” post of the week came today from the incomparable Doc Searls via his blog. “World Wide Catacombs” is a powerful statement about the current status of searching. Here’s the first graph (but you need to read the whole thing):

What started as plain old Web search has now been marginalized as“organic”. That’s because the plain old Web — the one Tim Berners-Lee created as a way to hyperlink documents — has become commercialized to such an extent that the about the only “organic” result reliably rising to first-page status is Wikipedia.

Doc describes searching more like strolling through a mall than a library, and this is something that needs discussing, because I agree with Doc that this is of questionable value in the long haul. It does, however, fit with recent postings of mine, which led me to leave this comment on Doc’s piece:

(This) fits with fascinating new findings in the latest Borrell Benchmarking survey (herehere, and here). That last link is my piece this week on “We must think of ads as content.” In a nutshell, what Borrell is finding is that content is still king, but it’s advertising content, not editorial. Armed with free or nearly free tools, the people with the money (to paraphrase Rosen, “the people formerly known as the advertisers”) are spending it not on advertising but on creating their own content. From the Borrell report: “the Top 5 local online companies derive all their content from their own advertisers. In fact, half of the top 20 are all-advertising sites.”

So not only is this taking place, but you have the content farms, as you note.

I think that until smart developers create tools for specifically mining these kinds of content, people will continue to use the old search engines. When that happens (and it should, because there’s money there), we’ll see changes in what the search engines deliver.

As the lens of recent history is applied, the 40,000 foot view of this marvelous tool we call the Web is getting clearer and clearer, and more opportunities are developing as advertisers create more content themselves. Hang on, ’cause it’s going to be an interesting ride. At Harvard, Doc is working on many fascinating things, including the “Ideas for a Better Internet” project, one that could include answers to this particular problem.

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