Hope everyone had a great holiday and now it’s back to business. My business brain got turned on yesterday as I read the article on the front of the NY Times business section. If you haven’t read the piece on how an unscrupulous web vendor grew his business by exploiting Google’s algorithm (my guess is it’s the same with the other search engines as well), you can read it here. The gist of it is this dirtball welcomes and precipitates customer complaints, saying they vault his business higher in Internet search results. It’s really frightening but in the almost 48 hours since it was published (on the web site Saturday night) a lot has happened. Most importantly, it shows me once again why newspapers won’t die any time soon.I’m not proclaiming that the printed versions of the Times or other great papers aren’t in trouble nor do I think that the dwindling readership of their hard copies will suddenly rebound. But as I’ve said before, I know many folks who read the Times every day yet never pick up the newspaper. It’s not about the channel or delivery method – it’s about the content, and this is a great, professional job of investigative journalism. Very few organizations are capable of this and most don’t even care to try.
It’s also about the power that this level of professionalism brings. Since the article was published, some of the companies cited for inaction have taken action. Yes, it’s not great that everyone from Google to law enforcement to Ebay to the credit card companies did very little until the Times did the story. Frankly, they all need to do better. They all spoke of how they’re all developing safeguards to “prevent this from happening again” and how they have “no idea” how this guy managed to get around all their existing controls. Not good, especially on “Cyber-Monday.” But the bad site has been removed from Google’s rankings (I wonder if they’re addressing the other sites smart users have found that appear to be related?) and others have taken action as well.
This is why newspapers won’t die. For the most part, they are the only ones left doing this sort of work (and you wish they’d do more of it). Notice how many “news” sites just regurgitate stories. Those stories need to come from somewhere other than PR departments and wire services. This shows you why.
Did you read the piece? Thoughts?