Many of us use web-based consumer search technology without a second thought in looking for a particular document, factoid, or entertainment opportunity — after all, we’re all consumers and that’s what the big search engines are tuned to deliver. Does anyone doubt that their business model — advertising and media — play a big a role in the results we get?
We need not look far for a predecessor business model to consumer internet search; consider the role advertisers play in determining what we see on TV. We all have examples great TV shows (starting with Star Trek) that vanished not owing to their waning merit, but because advertisers didn’t think they could use them to move enough merchandise. So it’s not a radical observation to note that such shows are not made to serve the viewer’s interest — the viewers’ interests are merely a proxy for the commercial interest of the advertisers. Steve Arnold makes the same observation here with respect to consumer internet search, with considerably more vigor and passion.
So if someone else has created the search application that matches your viewers with your content, how much control do you have over what results are delivered to your users? If delivering value to your end users is something your organization needs to do to survive and thrive, you no doubt want ever more control over the relevance of your search results. It’s not a matter of sacrificing subjectivity by embedding some other site-search technology; it’s a matter of ensuring you know whose interest your search application serves.