Tuesday, August 9

Negative synergy

Bad news + bad news = worse news.

Simple equation. Yesterday we mentioned Google's boneheaded old-school move to "blacklist" CNet.com. Now, the search-engine giant is being sued for claiming excessive advertising fees.
"SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. is being sued over accusations that it overcharged advertisers that use the Web search giant's paid search advertising program, which accounts for the vast majority of Google's revenue."
Even though there is no direct link between these pieces, the public perception will likely be worse than if they were more spread out in time.

It's fair to ask -- would this headline have played as high had there been no recent negative Google-talk? Hard to say. But I can say as an ex-journalist that producers and editors can never resist the temptation to group such stories together. Which means that ones that might have glossed over the CNet ban are picking it up as a sidebar, ones that might have buried the lawsuit are giving it new prominence, or even worse -- some are working on a story about "Google Losing Golden Glow." (editors love alliteration, too.)

That's the kind of perception that kills, and that ought to be avoided at all costs. The Shakespearean element of this PR tragedy is that one of these two incidents could have been avoided entirely. It truly is trouble of their own making.

*(I am not ruling out the possibility that the law firm bringing forth the class-action suit waited for an opportune time to "stick it" to Google. That hasn't been alleged or proven... but a good PR move on their part, if intentional.)