Advertising for Intranets

By Marc Solomon posted 08-31-2011 22:36


"We felt like, well, the ad had nothing to do with the search. Why would we show it? It's distracting." - Sergey Brin

I've been reading an outdated retro book about Google's early rise from an OEM tool for web portals to the appropriation of term currency fluctuations that it is today. It's not all that curious that the Sergey and Larry would emerge from their dorm rooms detesting the very idea that their engineering would spawn a new medium for ad messages.

In John Battelle's 2005 work "The Search" Battelle writes that Sergey bristled at an ad-based business model not because advertising was corrupting the vision, bias the search, or manipulating the search masses but because banner ads threatened the vaunted loading times of Google's results sets. Gotta love the purity of engineering design. The invention's the thing. Whatever hitches to its star? That's for the lawyers and accountaints to sort out.

Of course it's not the search results themselves were ever just surface noise. But this was not just another business formula. This was a whole new economic model that saw past the shallow premise of monetizing content, the whack-a-mole pop-ups, or the fool's errand of impartial web crawls and standardized search results. WYSIWYG was on its way to becoming what-you-want-is-what-you-get -- even if that meant slaving away for Mark Zuckerberg on social media wages. The pay-out? Unannounced friends on your Facebook page -- some of whom you might even know.

The Cloud Will Come Out Tomorrow

We're now nearly seven years past the publication of The Search. The supply side of search has domesticated the usage experience to the point where sponsored term sets rush into fill the void in our search boxes -- a world where the consumer is the product -- and no one blinks. Meanwhile enterprise search remains trapped in 2005 (or was it '95)?

The actual demand side of search on which knowledge work depends continues to take a backseat to the unquestioned priorities corporate IT: (1) don't crash the system; and (2) don't lose anything. If you can't find anything either and you're asked to login every time a page refreshes? There's always, right?

So what's going to unblock the wall between the content producers and consumers in your shop? Is it ...

  • A series of customer surveys with 1-5 point scales detailing their subjective thresholds for search pain?
  • Paying your contributors by the upload?
  • Creating ad auctions as a kind of office betting pool to guess which hits remain longest in the top ten rotation?

I think not.

In Your Dreams, Google

The iron corporate IT curtain need not head up to the clouds for your learning intentions to rain down search redemption. But those users are not going to know what they want until we show them. Otherwise commercial Google will remain the impossible standard for all enterprises. And the sequestering of search leaves open a great many benefits that commercial search can never attain:

  1. Sincere, unmiitigated organic search -- the most popular downloads are based on merit, not marketing
  2. Social bookmarking (folksonomies) -- the hallmark of any demand-based system
  3. User ratings (+ number of raters) -- a companion of usage reporting with a built-in bias towards positive feedback
  4. Search configuration -- tuning search to recognize mot only the richest metadata but the most unique properties in the content it crawls so those identifiers land in the refiners or facets which enable better questions

That's the kind of conversation you may not have directly with your users. Bit it's the one they need to have with their search tool. And if the indifference of bad search ever gets past the results page one could "add the friction of money to the equation." I'm quoting Battelle's capture of IdeaLab's Bill Gross and his eureka moment that search terms delivered intentions to advertisers. If it works for commercial search why can't one business parade its IP in front of another.

What's worth paying attention to is a judgment call. But what's worth paying to receive attention is an algorithm. At a certain point our enterprises will become ghost towns because all the action will be as distant from ECM as the desktop interface. Revisiting search engines as atttention allocation tools brings us up to the right century, if not yet up-to-date.

#attentionmanagement #Google #SEO #ScanningandCapture #dotcomboom #Marketing #GenY #businessmodel