ZDNet Analyzes Google and Its Crushing of the RSS Industry

March 23, 2013

Quite a story this one: “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish: How Google Crushed and Abandoned the RSS Industry.” Disclaimer. I used to work at the “old and original Ziff Communications.” I recall fond discussions of the editorial focus of the empire, now crumbled like Ozymandius’ statue. The point was that money came from product reviews and a number of other hot buttons which worked with advertisers and readers.

I don’t recall too many of the old school Psychology Today type write ups which embraced the lofty intellectual approach of that publication.

ZDNet has not exactly set the world on fire with financial success. I am not sure who owns the news service but I do recall this story in Venture Beat: “ZDNet Cuts US Bloggers As It Refocuses on Global Coverage.” I suppose Venture Beat could have written “ZDNet Destroys US Bloggers,” but to its credit, Venture Beat explained that a unit of CNet which is in turn owned by CBS Interactive which is owned by CBS Corporation which is struggling to boost its revenue and margins.

The good news is that CBS is alive and kicking. The less good news is that ZDNet is venturing into to interesting territory with its MBA like analysis of Google’s actions.

Here’s the passage I noted as one of the more recycled notions floating around:

It’s not unlike the widely criticized model that Microsoft pursued in its pre-Millennium days as a monopolist: Embrace, extend, extinguish. Except in this example it doesn’t appear to be part of a grand plan to destroy an industry. Google was Godzilla, sweeping through the landscape and crushing anything in its path, because few startups can compete with a free product from Google.

Yep, that’s the point of trying to become a monopoly. Mono. One. Pretty slick, eh?

What’s the ZDNet conceptual bottom line? Here you go. Google are you ready?

And now, with Google abandoning that service, any business that uses RSS gets to go back to the glory days of 2006. Ugh. Back in 2009, when NewsGator surrendered to Google, I wrote this:

“[S]elfishly, I’m glad Google has won. It’s the default online RSS reader, and I think they’ve done a fine job with it. I can still use FeedDemon and NetNewsWire on Windows PCs and Macs respectively.

[…]

In the bigger picture, I hate being beholden to Google for yet another service where they can watch what I do and who I watch. But I’m willing to trust them, just as I’m willing to trust Microsoft on many issues.”

Fool me once…

Somehow ZDNet has lost the notion that revenue has to grow and costs go down. To achieve this, commercial enterprises have to make decisions. Some are bad, which creates the financial problems for some outfits. Some are good which allow out organizations to prosper. Is Google UNESCO or United Way? Google sells ads. Google reduces costs. Google—to its credit—is trying to shift from controlled chaos to a somewhat more orderly approach to its former product profligacy.

Seems simple. No one has to be fooled. If one wants consistent service, find a vendor and pay for the service. Using free stuff brings along risk. The question is, “Is this a complex idea?” There may be a reason some folks get fooled. It has less to do with Google and more to do with the person’s own equipment for living.

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2013

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