PBS | I, Cringely . December 29, 2005 – Stop the Presses!

Doomsayer: Robert X. Cringley says “pay-per-click” is killing the traditional publishing industry.


“I am here to say that much of print publishing as we have come to understand it is doomed. I would include this thought in next week’s 2006 predictions column except that it will take more than a single year to happen. But to me the end is obvious and near.”

Since my New Year’s resolution is to not rant, I’m going to say, simply: I disagree. I do agree that pay-per-click is a great business model. I thought it was a great idea when Ted Turner used a version of “pay-per-click” advertising during the early days of WTBS. No one would purchase regular advertising so he sold advertising on a per-lead basis. In fact, there’s a whole industry called “direct marketing” that works on a type of pay-per-click basis. If all advertising was for lead generation, pay-per-click would be the answer to all marketing needs. But billions of marketing dollars are spent each year on activities other than lead-generation. Apple was not just trying to generate leads with those iPod ads: it is creating a cultural phenomenon.

Also, as I’ve said in great detail before, there will be magazines that go away (for that matter, even popular TV shows go away), but magazines as a medium are not doomed during the lifetime of anyone reading this on January 1, 2006. They will go away one day: cave painting had a product life cycle. Just not anytime soon, and not because of pay-per-click advertising.

Finally, and this is not a rant, just an observation. Whenever someone starts down this “Google’s ‘pay-per-click’ is killing traditional publishing path” and tries to prove it with math about how much Google is taking away from “traditional publishers,” they conveniently leave out of their equation the billions of dollars of Google revenue that passes directly through Google and goes straight to the bottom lines of traditional publishers. Google does not generate all of those billions of dollars of pay-per-click advertising on websites it own. It serves as a broker, taking a rather standard commission for its role, in advertising that appears on the websites of traditional publishers.

Technorati Tags: , ,