On Monday, March 2, 2015, the online edition of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article written by Kira Radinsky titled Data Monopolists Like Google Are Threatening the Economy.
Does it make sense for anyone reading this article to tightly associate (perhaps in a Pavlovian manner) the opinion expressed in it with the Harvard Business Review, itself? Did Radinsky intend to capitalize on the opportunity of publishing this article on as ostensibly a prestigious web site as HBR for some reason?
I hope readers will not find themselves somehow adrift as they ponder the above questions. The questions are not coming out of the void. Because the position Radinsky presents in this article is actually consistent, as I read it, with a Socialist view of how tech businesses should be regulated by the government to ensure “fair” competition.
In fact, a review of Radinsky’s public profile on LinkedIn reveals her management position in a company based in Israel. So why is the HBR publishing her article? Is it not fair to assume the average reader could misconstrue the article and its position on the HBR site as a tacit endorsement of some new test to genuine American free market capitalism (credit to Larry Kudlow for coining this phrase).
So with this preamble in place, let me now dive into what I think really matters. Radinsky presents the following “fact”: “Today, the most prominent factors are historical search query logs and their corresponding search result clicks. Studies show that the historical search improves search results up to 31%.” Sure, if the technology is predicated on personalization techniques and “cookies”, etc.
There is no reason why competitors to Google (for example) couldn’t approach the same objective from a completely different angle. In fact, given the growing public concern about personalization and its dependence on activities of the invasion of privacy kind, there is, perhaps, a palpable imperative to find just this kind of new way of approaching the task.
Free market capitalism always rewards the “better mousetrap”. So why argue for a controlled marketplace where stakeholders in one approach are penalized just because the “better mousetrap” has yet to be found?
Granted, we have yet to witness the introduction of this “better mousetrap”, but I would argue the recent successes Facebook has reported over the last several business quarters are indicative of a real shift away from the kind of traditional search engine marketing for which Google is renowned.
In my opinion the editors at HBR should have thought a bit more about Radinsky’s article before agreeing to publish it.
Ira Michael Blonder
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