BusinessWeek’s The Small Fry Sour On Search Ads reveals a familiar pattern:
Think of it as fallout from a new online land rush. Brand giants from Best Buy Co. (BBY) to Zale Corp. (ZLC ) are diverting more and more of their marketing budgets to search ads. They’re driving up prices and stealing customers from some of the smaller businesses that have bought the bulk of those ads. Web users have learned to shop around more, and now, instead of clicking on ads from the little guys and buying from them on the spot, they’re often buying from the big brands they know well. If many of the small and midsize companies that pioneered this ad medium get disillusioned, search ads could lose their luster.
Around the country, the introduction of brick-and-mortar superstores is still met with protests. But on the Internet, we seem far more interested in the evolution of the technology and business models, and we’ve seen little in the way of grassroots involvement in trying to shape the commercial world of cyberspace. By contrast, in Second Life, where people live, play, and own property, protest is no stranger.
This got me asking a number of questions. In commercial cyberspace, since stores don’t turn quiet neighborhoods into day-long traffic jams, do we not care about the loss of small businesses as long as we save money? Or is it that since we don’t live in the neighborhood of commercial cyberspace, it isn’t quite “real,” and besides, we don’t have any control over what happens there anyway? Is it that we don’t really understand technologies like search ads, so we don’t know what to protest against? Or that since the technology is still young and evolving, we’re afraid of stunting it before it turns into what it’s supposed to be?
What do you think?