Starving Artists in the Age of Cesspool Content

On Hacker News, Melvin, from Web Design Company, had a great analogy on the Mahalo business model:

Let's use a different industry to illustrate what is happening.

Let's say a band named The Beatles records a new album. The local radio station gets a copy of their album and plays their song. The listeners love it so they play it more often, but they don't mention who the band is and on their website, they put up a link to download the song... but without any credits. Their audience grows. They get advertisers to advertise to their audience. They say, "hey, playing good songs gets us more listeners and more listeners gets us more advertisers, which gets us more $$. Let's do this more often." So they go do this 500,000 times, and each time never mentioning who the artist is. They grow and prosper while the artists starve.

Oh, in the mean time they call the artist scum.

In the above metaphor, the artists are the bloggers whose content Mahalo is using. The radio station ripping off the artist is Mahalo. The Federal Communication Commission is like Google, who is allowing all this to continue because the radio station is giving them a cut from the advertising revenue.

Hope this helps make it a little more clear why what they are doing is wrong, needed to get exposed and needs to get fixed.

The analogy isn't 100% perfect...but it *is* pretty darn close. :D

Jason is not 100% Jim McCormick, but he isn't 0% either.

Published: January 29, 2010 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


January 29, 2010 - 3:21pm

It's an interesting analogy for sure and I'm glad you shared it. However, I don't think that Google is the root of the problem here, it's the current way that law is applied to the web.

If what Mahalo is doing is illegal or subject to lawsuits, one or more of the following three things will happen:
a) Google will remove Mahalo from their index
b) Bloggers will sue Mahalo en masse
c) The U.S. government would take legal action

I'm no law expert, but it appears that what Mahalo is doing is perfectly legal. Unfair but legal.

And Google, being a corporation, is not as interested in becoming the judge of what's fair and unfair as they are about protecting and growing their profit margins. In this case, letting Mahalo do their thing helps them make money, so they are perfectly happy to let things stand as is.

On the flipside, Google recognized that paid links were a threat to their profit margins, so they decided to wage war against that industry (with Vietnam and/or Iraq-like results if I might add).

I think that's what it really comes down to, and I also think that the McDonaldization of web content is only going to continue, but that doesn't mean that there won't be room for savvy marketers/publishers that know how to carve out a nice niche for themselves.

January 29, 2010 - 3:55pm

"Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one." - Mark Twain

Are the Google and Mahalo brands built off of pretending they are one while being the other? Longterm what happens to their profit margins as people discover that?

January 29, 2010 - 4:24pm

I'm a huge Mark Twain fan (he's got some greattakes on religion from his days covering missionaries in Hawaii) but I guess I'm just jaded from too many documentaries on the abuses and general failings of large corporations.

Their lone goal is to make ever-increasing money, so in most cases, both "law" and "right" are no longer the controlling factor.

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