President Barack Obama sits with Google Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, during a meeting with business leaders to discuss the economy. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
While the outrage of the week is that Google funding caused a think tank to fire some Google critics, what most politically-aware readers don’t realize is that most of the big websites in America are in deep with Silicon Valley. Not just Google, but also Facebook, and Amazon get a say in what you read. These three have tentacles wrapped around many big websites including Breitbart, Buzzfeed, The Daily Caller and Politico.
The first is of course Google. Google is a company that media companies need a good relationship with. Whether it’s through participation in Google News, AMP search integration, Google+ promotion, or participation in money-making AdSense and Doubleclick for Publishers (DFP) programs, for-profit websites need a healthy Google relationship to survive. And you don’t take gratuitous shots at someone who makes you a lot of money, just the same as non-profits don’t badmouth their donors.
Facebook is a major partner for many websites. Long criticized to be pay for play, it goes deeper than that. Companies invest in Facebook to get traffic, invest in the platform through ads, and make Facebook-exclusive content. In return, the site get traffic. Sites value their relationships with Facebook, and can’t afford to mess those up.
The third, and most subtle, tech influence on websites is from Amazon. Ever notice how some websites have these weird articles and “product reviews” out of nowhere? Those happen because the websites are part of affiliate programs, and the 500 pound gorilla of affiliate programs is the Amazon Associates program. The amount of money you get from Amazon Associates isn’t fixed, either. It’s a sliding scale that goes up, yup, as you develop a business relationship with Amazon. The more they like you, the higher a percentage you get. So guess who suddenly gets an incentive to pull their punches against Amazon?
The old saying is that you don’t s*** where you eat. Websites you read every day eat by making business deals with Google, Facebook, and Amazon. If you want the truth about those companies, read carefully, and be mindful of what they might leave out.