Response to JD Rucker's "Adwords is Dying"

Yesterday, tech/business blog Fast Company ran an article by JD Rucker called "Adwords Is Dying and Google Knows It (and they are doing something about it)".

Within the article, he talks about the moves Google has been making (notably the integration of maps and reviews on organic search results, and the 'promotion' of Google sage Marissa Mayer from Search Products to Geo/Local). He marks these strategies as a harbinger of Adwords' inevitable death. There are two essential points he makes which seem to be tied. The more important point he makes is (or, should be) that these are strong moves on Google's part. With this, I agree.

But the more dramatic point, the over-arching theme of the article, is the titular one--that Adwords is dying. This phrase is repeated in different styles throughout the article.

And this just seems silly.

Rucker points to Facebook as setting the example that the future of tech business is social and mobile. This is mostly true. It's definitely true as a popular trend, which means the dollars will follow. One is reminded of dialogue from The Social Network, when Zuckerberg says, "we don't want ads, ads aren't cool".

But Rucker seems to be taking a few things for granted.

After a couple re-reads of his article, I haven't found one cogent reason why Adwords is dying. He simply frames it as an inevitability, but does nothing to support it.
The numbers and trends point to continued success of Adwords as the largest Internet ad platform in history. Those numbers are, however, short term, and Google is not waiting for the trends to turn down before doing something about it.
This quote (especially the second sentence) would seem to be the thesis of the entire article, and certainly is true. But it runs contradictory to the over-all context of the article which, clearly, is inevitable doom for Adwords.

Let's break it down:

"The numbers and trends point to continue success of Adwords as the largest Internet ad platform in history." = this clearly disagrees with the Rucker's headline.

"Those numbers are short term, and Google is not waiting for the trends to turn down before doing something about it." = this is also true, but does not actually lead to an Adwords grim reaper.

By claiming that the numbers are short-term, he seems to imply that they will not also be long-term. Long and short may be grammatical opposites but they are not mutually exclusive. The United States of America will exist for the long term, but as of the 1800's (or even, today) the numbers on its success are short-term. So, to say that Adwords will eventually fail is--at best--entirely speculative; there's probably more evidence against this implication than supporting it.

Much of the evidence is found right in Rucker's article.

As of this article, there is no doubt that Adwords is still trending positively. More websites are going live. More people are on the web and searching. More advertisers are trying to reach these people. Why would Google be worried?
This literally sums up the entire situation. To draw an opposing conclusion, you need to think in the abstract. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but abstract conclusions usually need to be proved, rather than taken as a truism.

The language that he uses to support his claim conjures the reality of tech business as a forever evolving species. He even quotes Lisa Loeb, "We're dying from the day we're born.". The inevitability of death is the only knell he rings in the entire article to support his claim. But death is only an inevitability in living organisms. Businesses and business structures certainly resemble organisms much of the time. They adapt, they thrive, they get fat, they starve, they wither, they are replaced by better versions. But they don't all do all of these things (even the hydra that is tech business). If it could be argued that, at this point in history, no tech platform has shown longevity, that doesn't mean none ever will. It just means it hasn't been observed yet.

If there's one company that seriously has nothing to worry about, it's Google. Even it's abysmal failures are brushed off like a mosquito bite, learned from, and improvement is gleaned. No amount of google waves or buzz hiccups can change the fact that Google owns the internet.
Despite its success, Google knows that two things are growing faster than "old school" Internet and will likely start chipping away from standard search and advertising platforms: mobile and social media.
Just because mobile and social are growing (and chipping) doesn't mean they're ever going to over-take Adwords. The reason for their immense popularity is the same reason for their profit limitations: they're not about money. Advertising, however, is. And nobody trying to buy airline tickets or a house or a used vibrator says, "Let's facebook it.". Facebook has become the verb people use for connecting with someone. Google will always be the verb people use to find something. Compared to social networking, Adwords is less culturally important, fun, and outright popular. It's probably a less important accomplishment for humankind. But it's more lucrative.

The more appropriate angle Rucker could have taken is: Google has a great thing going, and is now going to hedge in other areas. They're making a lot of money in one sector, why not try to make as much money in another area. After all, isn't that the end goal of business: to make ALL the money? Rucker's vision of the future seems to be a see-saw shift, but with his 'shares of the pie' economics, he seems to forget that the pie can simply get bigger. I am reminded of one of my all time favorite quotes...
"...through this initial trial and proof of earth, we see the way forward--to replaces the word 'or', and it's resulting attitudes, with the word "and".
-Daniel Beresniak

Cutting to the bottom line, JD Rucker's not stupid... He's just a businessman. It's much easier to attract attention to a blog post that has "Adwords is Dying" in the title, than it is with something like, "Adwords is going strong, and other platforms are getting big too!" Why do you think the news channels love mining accidents? Human fascination with morbidity.

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