Google’s Big Idea for YouTube: Make It More Like QVC

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I thought the Bluetooth male chastity device was going to be the worst idea I wrote about this week, but apparently Google took one look at that concept and said: “Hold my beer.”

Well, no, that’s not quite right. One half of CEO Sundar Pichai and his team apparently said “Hold my beer,” while the other half said: “Business opportunity!”

“Is that real neoprene and a GENUINE matte paint job?”
“I do believe it is, Gunther. Just 12 easy payments of $99.”

Google’s big idea, according to Bloomberg, is to turn YouTube into QVC and directly monetize products. Instead of seeing someone review a product and having to visit a website like Amazon or Newegg to buy it, you’ll just be able to click on a link and buy the goods directly, with YouTube getting a cut somewhere along the way. It isn’t clear where YouTube would make money in this process — well, more than the $15B per year it already makes — but Bloomberg speculates it could be related to the subscriber business YouTube now offers influencers, from which it extracts a 30 percent fee. YouTube CEO Sundar Pichai has suggested that “unboxing” videos could be directly monetized as product opportunities.

“When you think about things like unboxing and product reviews, those are a natural home for transactions as well,” Pichai said, during the Q1 2020 earnings call. ” I earlier mentioned about all the work we are doing now on commerce. All of that, I’m looking forward to those integrations coming into YouTube and working better as well.”

Part of this expansion has been billed as a way to help creators diversify their earnings away from advertising, but the potential for abuse seems tremendous here. A handful of influencers would undoubtedly become spokespeople for big-name, reputable brands, and as for the rest… what, exactly? Influencers failing to disclose relationships with the brands they cover has already been a significant problem, and this type of arrangement seems incredibly unlikely to change that.

Bloomberg notes that: “At a minimum, the new measures could help YouTube deepen the data it collects from videos to strengthen its ads business,” which is a great reason not to engage with any effort YouTube makes to sell you stuff. But secondary to that, does anyone think the problem with Google services is that you can’t engage with enough products quickly enough?

Google Search Has Gone Downhill

If you’ve been on the internet for longer than a decade, you probably remember when searching for things brought up something other than product ads and link after link to websites whose URLs mark them as SEO-optimized spam sites, not links to any kind of meaningful content.

This is one of those issues that people seem to talk quietly about but that never get mentioned in an article. I cannot show 100 search results from 2010, flip over to the 2020 results, and demonstrate that the search engine has been taken over by product sales and vapid commentary, but look at the results for “google search getting worse” and look at how many of them were written in the past few years. This isn’t just random people complaining about how the internet was better “back in our day.” The internet — at least the internet as shown to the world by Google — used to be about something other than shoveling more bottom-end goods from China into people’s houses.

Here’s the list of “also ask” suggestions when you Google “is Google getting worse.”

It’s become much harder — though not impossible — to use Google to perform any kind of actual work, partly because you have to shovel through 50 tons of useless shit served by every e-commerce company under the sun + Pinterest + whatever random SEO crap is triggered by your search terms. Google has been under fire for these changes from all sides, and the company’s solution — its big idea for 2020 — is that it could attempt to extract even more revenue from people by blurring the lines between carnival barkers and influencers even more than they are already. Nothing could possibly go wrong from encouraging influencers, some of whom are in their mid-to-late teens, to sign up as brand ambassadors for products.

Here’s the list of “also asks” if you search for “is Google getting better.” Spot the difference!

It’s not that you can’t find great information on the internet. It’s that you increasingly can’t find it from Google.com. Not, at least, without wading through four obvious ads, two fake search results that are also ads, 36 images of products you aren’t trying to buy, and 15 articles on sites like “FixGoodWindows.com” telling you how to perform an antivirus scan with grammar a remedial ESL student would laugh at.

If there’s one thing we don’t need from YouTube, it’s a QVC-like experience. And if you’re trying to use Google to perform serious searching — which is basically anything that doesn’t involve buying a pair of pants — try using the most exact and scholarly language you can think of. Verbatim search is sometimes still useful, and selective use of quotes can punch through the crap if there’s a term of art commonly used to refer to a topic or subject that’s different from the colloquial comparison.

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