Conflict Search

I ran into an old friend of mine who was an old radio promotion executive and got to talking about how the business had changed. His old job essentially was to introduce fans to new music and somehow get them to buy.

Mostly his job was staying one step ahead of the FCC on payola in all its many varied forms as he (and all his competitors) tried to make sure their record got added to the coveted spots where lots of people would hear the record in a format they liked and hopefully would buy. This was no mean feat.

He was fascinated by the Internet and especially the idea of using search to introduce fans to new music. He understood search—search results were like a “chart” the list of the top playing records on a radio station. And charts could be manipulated.

He’d been experimenting with Google search and had a couple questions about how it (i.e., Google’s search algorithm) works. I told him to get in line–no one really knows that except Google. And the list of “disappeareds” from Google search results was long and distinguished.

As a man who was used to playing hopscotch with monopoly power, he understood the beast and was confident that he could figure a way to manipulate search just as he had manipulated the charts.

How do you get into the top web search results, he asked? I told him that you buy it.

You buy it? Just like that?

More or less, yes.

He said that he’d been playing around with the Google video search on music videos.

How is it, he asked, that the top video search results are always from YouTube?

Good question, I suggested. You do know that Google owns YouTube, right?Now this was something he understood.

And they can have their own company dominate the top 40 search results?

It is a curious coincidence, yes. Looks like an SRM situation.

He gave me the knowing smirk of a man whose entire life was a curious coincidence, a man who had worked his way through college playing poker.

That’s not a conflict of interest?

It may be a conflict of interest, but no one regulates it. And it’s a monopoly.

He said—wait! I get it. Google is like Clearchannel without the FCC!

See also: Google Book Search is a Disaster
See also: Google Book Search: How bad is the metadata?
See also: The Importance of Registries
See also: Book Review: Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge