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Harper's Publisher Rages at Google for Not Understanding What He Means, Yells at Internet: "Hey! This Ain't a Library!"

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John MacArthur, the publisher of the venerable Harper's magazine, which still resists free online content, is peeved at Google. And for good reason!

I had to cheer when I read the news the other week about a French company that's selling an ad-blocking service on the Internet. Xavier Niel, the entrepreneurial owner of the web-service provider Free, is threatening to smash the advertiser-supported "free-content" model. That model has transformed Google's Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt into media barons who make William Randolph Hearst look like a small-time operator. Niel, it seems, would also like to make the Internet "free," but in a way that horrifies the so-called content providers — that is free of paid advertising.

….I've long objected to Google's systematic campaign to steal everything that isn't welded to the floor by copyright….

This for-profit theft is committed in the pious guise of universal access to "free information," as if Google were just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library…

This is nonsense, of course. Google's bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known, but equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently. Try finding Harper's Magazine when you Google "magazines that publish essays" or "magazines that publish short stories" — it isn't easy.

A couple of years back, in the context of MacArthur's very progressive attempt to keep his staff from unionizing, I noted:

People whose intellectual lives began this century might know this venerable publication Harper's, available to most only on "paper," as but a dim memory. But trust me, as someone who has felt its intensely frightening weight in my very hands this very month, it's out there. And someday, you might find that out for yourself. (The New York article effectively mocks MacArthur's fear and hatred of using the Web as a way to communicate with readers, make money, or allow the world to know the mag still exists.)

I took on Harper's peculiar anti-market snobbery in the previous century.

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  1. Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google “magazines that publish essays” or “magazines that publish short stories” ? it isn’t easy.

    Um…SEO? Also, who the fuck is Googling that?

    1. Try finding Harper’s magazine…period.

      1. I’m pretty sure I still see it in the airport. Pretty sure I’ve actually bought one in the past five years or so.

        1. I’ve only seen it in the massive rack at Barnes and Noble, and those are only there to impress people. Nobody buys The Nation, or New Socialist or Harper’s.

          1. You’ve seen a massive rack at Barnes and Noble?

      2. That’s what I was wondering. How easy was it to find before the internet?

        It’s everyone else’s fault that Harper’s is operating like it’s 1982.

    2. Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google “magazines that publish essays” or “magazines that publish short stories” ? it isn’t easy.

      Second result. This pretentious fuck doesn’t understand how google works.

      1. Well, Google does work differently for everyone. It’s not my second result.

        1. http://www.everywritersresourc…..zines.html

          No, Google works the same for everyone. It searches the text of pages to find results that match what the user is looking for. So unless Harper’s has a page with the words “magazines that publish short stories” on it (It doesn’t, except this blog post which shows up several pages in because not many people who are searching for places that might publish their short stories find this brand of poorly-informed self righteous gibberish useful), it won’t show up in the results for that search. The link I posted up top, which is the second result for that search, is a list of magazines that publish short stories along with links directly to their content-submission pages, which is extremely useful for someone looking for magazines that publish short stories. Now if you search for something that is actually in Harper’s, Harper’s’ website will be the first result.

          1. If you search “Nothing comes from this country!’ he said, his irritation evident. ‘If I could build…” for instance, which is from a Harper’s article, all the results will be from Harpers.org.

          2. Google results will be influenced by your history and potentially social media connections if you use it while signed in, so it’s really not the same for everyone.

            1. The results will be influenced by your history, but it works the same. The mechanism is exactly the same for everyone.

              1. Well, you win the prize Brandon. Sure, everybody understood exactly what nicole meant, but you won and that’s what’s important. Don’t spend your winnings all in one place.

      2. It’s not in any of the results on the 1st page for me. Or the 2nd. I don’t get any mention of Harper’s at all until the 6th page of both searches. And only 1 result for that page of each search. And of those 2 results, only the “magazines that publish short stories” brought up something directly related to Harper’s (Project Gutenberg’s “THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1917 AND THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY”). The other search result is basically about the same thing as this article (The Atlantic Wire’s “Publisher of Harper’s Googles Wrong”).

        I still think his objection is silly, though.

    3. Conversation with my editor:

      Editor – “Why is it that when I do a search on Google, our website does show up in the search results?”

      Me – “What keywords are you using in your search?”

      Editor – “What do you mean? ‘Kewords’?”

      Me – “What words are you typing into the text field and asking Google to search for?”

      Editor – “I’ve tried all kinds of ‘Keywords,’ like Bible, Jesus, God, Holy Scripture… our website doesn’t show up for any of those?”

      Me – “Well, those are really competitive keywords to try to rank for. Our website was launched 3 months ago shortly after you hired me. It takes time to build the kind of content and link structure necessary to show up for those keywords… if you google the title of our magazine, our website is on the first page, below our wikipedia entry.”

      Editor – “How long will it take for you to get us to show up on Google ahead of Wikipedia for those keywords I mentioned?”

      Me –

      1. Conversation with my editor:

        Editor – “Why is it that when I do a search on Google, our website does show up in the search results?”

        Me – “What keywords are you using in your search?”

        Editor – “What do you mean? ‘Kewords’?”

        Me – (shaking my head in frustration) “What words are you typing into the text field and asking Google to search for?”

        Editor – “I’ve tried all kinds of ‘Keywords,’ like Bible, Jesus, God, Holy Scripture… our website doesn’t show up for any of those?”

        Me – (gritting my teeth) “Well, those are really competitive keywords to try to rank for. Our website was launched 3 months ago shortly after you hired me. It takes time to build the kind of content and link structure necessary to show up for those keywords… if you google the title of our magazine, our website is on the first page, below our wikipedia entry.”

        Editor – “How long will it take for you to get us to show up on Google ahead of Wikipedia for those keywords I mentioned?”

        Me – (pounding my head on my desk)

        1. You need to hire an SEO expert.

        2. You’re trying to get this post to rank higher on searches aren’t you?

  2. Issues of the national question would be much clearer if several iron laws were understood.
    1. In any society, ecological limits exist.
    2. There is a basic evolutionary imperative to expand the population to these limits.
    3. As the population expands to these limits, misery and scarcity ensure.
    4. These limits can be expanded, but not eliminated, by technology.
    5. Technological advancement requires an large intelligent population and a social structure conducive to it. IT DOES NOT OCCUR SPONTANEOUSLY.
    6. Only a small fraction of humanity has the intelligence required to advance technology.

    1. Fuck you, cut spending.

    2. So … I’m not free to gambol?

    3. You Know My Name| 1.18.13 @ 10:42AM |#
      “Issues of the national question would be much clearer if several iron laws were understood.”

      Pretty sure a guy name of Malthus made his name on those sorts of ‘laws’.
      And I’m sure you’ll be remembered as equally brain-dead

      1. And he was right. He did not predict that starvation was BOUND to happen. He just said that unless agriculture advanced it would. He lived during the industrial revolution and knew much about technology. But I really don’t see why we should assume something will magically spontaneously generate itself. By making people aware of the problem, we will be more likely to innovate a solution, at least temporarily.

        1. If the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow, we’ll all freeze to death.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon?Ehrlich_wager

    4. Only a small fraction of humanity has the intelligence required to advance technology.

      Does this mean we get to kill everyone else? I might be good with that.

    5. #2 isn’t actually true, you know. Just how untrue it is will play itself out over the next century.

      And #1 isn’t really true, either. Except in the sense that it would be theoretically possible to fill the entire ecological niche available to intelligence in the entire universe. But that would take, like, billions of years, so a “limit” exists only in the most literal sense.

  3. When are we finally going to nationalize Google? There, I said it.

    1. It’s time for a serious and rational national conversation.

    2. Douche extraordinaire Cory Doctorow already floated this idea several years ago. Turn Google into a regulated public utility.

      1. Say good bye to products like Nexus then. And Android. And Chrome.

  4. try to find Lewis Lapham’s sense of self awareness… it aint easy

  5. I’ve long objected to Google’s systematic campaign to steal everything that isn’t welded to the floor by copyright

    SUMMON THE ANTI-IP BRIGADE!

    1. OK. Sup? Hey, would you mind smudging out this chalk circle?

      The fact that he doesn’t even have a goddamn copyright and he still thinks people are stealing his ideas (and therefor, his jerb) tells you what you need to know about IP.

      Intellectual property is intellectual economic protectionism. It there was as much money in landscaping as there is in ‘content creation’ there wouldn’t be a single mexican in the country.

      1. If my thoughts are my intellectual property and your thoughts are your intellectual property, would it be intellectual trespass if I used my psychic powers to read your mind?

        1. No, but it is a federal offense to violate my Terms of Service/End User License Agreement.

          1. So, you thought to put in an anti-psychic clause, eh? I’ll have to find an easier target then.

            1. It’s not anti-psychic. You’re just not allowed to use my thoughts to think anything I wouldn’t think with them.

              1. But if I stole your thought then spoke it out loud, you would then think it as I spoke thus you wouldn’t be able to prove that you didn’t think that thought.

          2. So serious question: Say you’re an inventor and you have an idea to create a new machine that will revolutionize goat milking. I catch wind of it and kidnap you and beat the idea out of you. Before you get free, I manage to build your machine and start selling them.

            Outside of the obvious kidnap and battery charges you could easily get me for, is there anything else related to the production and sale of the machine you legally have against me?

            1. Ideally, or in the current environment?

              In the ideal, I am actually not against the idea of providing a short temporary monopoly to the creator, the very rational for the IP system. It’s a good idea on paper but it has never been genuine. It’s only ever been an excuse for rent-seeking.

              If you are the first to create it, realistically that gives you all the advantage you need. You should have a huge leg up grabbing market share while other people are busy just trying to copy what you’ve already done. It’s not perfect, but it’s less evil than the alternative.

              It reminds me of Connor Friedersdorf on the drone war, lefties want to argue about the hypothetical drone war they want to have, not the one we’re actually having. We can argue about the validity of the IP laws we’d like to have. But the IP laws we actually do have, and will always wind up with once we deign to have IP laws, are something entirely different.

              1. I was curious about your ideal environment, because I’m curious what you would consider reasonable.

                I could only think of two possible answers:

                1. The initial inventor gets nothing relating to the machines.
                2. The initial inventor could bring a civil case which would reward him with a portion of the profits from the sale.

                1. In the rubber hose example?

                  I wouldn’t pay much mind to the dozen machines that went out the door before that dude got locked up for kidnapping and assault. Then you’ve got the whole market for yourself cause he can’t milk goats in jail.

                  If he buys one of your goatmilk machines, analyzes it, figures out how to build his own, builds his own, and starts selling them? That’s called competition. Keeps the market honest.

                  1. If he buys one of your goatmilk machines, analyzes it, figures out how to build his own, builds his own, and starts selling them? That’s called competition. Keeps the market honest.

                    Yes, I agree. I was just curious about the circumstances of the initial product since that’s where the “IP theft” occurs.

                    1. Ah, but you’re talking to someone who virulently rejects the idea that ideas can be ‘stolen’. It makes about as much sense to me as the idea that colonialists ‘stole’ African culture, like they had a copyright on it or something. I can copy you, but I can’t take your idea away from you.

                    2. If we do the little kid copycat thing and I repeat every single thing you say back to you, have I abused your 1st ammendment rights by stealing your voice?

                2. Actually, in the ideal, the initial inventor would get all the profits from the sale, because anything else would be allowing you to profit from the crimes of kidnapping and battery.

      2. If you don’t believe in intellectual property, you don’t believe in private property.

        1. Wow, you should write for HuffPo.

        2. If you don’t agree with me, you want to rape babies.

          1. If you don’t believe in Bigfoot, you don’t believe in mammals.

            1. If I don’t believe in mammals, can I still believe in Bigfoot?

              1. Are you saying Bigfoot is a Reptilian advance scout?

                Do you have any evidence to back up these reckless claims? I bet you wouldn’t like it if people just assumed you were a Reptillian infiltrator.

                1. I bet you wouldn’t like it if people just assumed you were a Reptillian infiltrator.

                  Veiled threats, huh? I must be on to something.

  6. Harp… Harper’s Maga… Magazine?

    Huh?

    Wasn’t that something people read in the 19th Century?

    There’s still a Harper’s?

  7. Harper’s coverage of the Little Bighorn was pretty good, though.

  8. I don’t necessarily see how it’s “anti-market” to favor a paid-content model.

    A lot of my liberal friends seem to favor free content, not because they don’t mind ads (they hate them) but because they (like most liberals) think they are entitled to get all sorts of shit for free. They won’t pay for content, and then they will bitch about the ads and put up ad blocker. Similarly, they will use the free service that Facebook provides and then complain that facebook sells their marketing data.

    They essentially think that the entire internet should be provided as a free service to the general public and all costs should be paid by the government (meaning other people) so they won’t have to look at ads.

    It’s entirely possible that the free-content model will eventually break down as a direct result of the spread of ad-blocking technology, and the market will then shift towards a paid-content model, which is what this guy is arguing.

    One way this could happen is if companies start bundling access to a variety of content with your ISP services. So you get your basic internet package, and then you pay a couple extra dollars for premium content access, and it’s all built into your IP address, so there’s no need to log in.

    1. They essentially think that the entire internet should be provided as a free service to the general public and all costs should be paid by the government (meaning other people) so they won’t have to look at ads.

      No, I think it’s more correct to say they think free service should be free and not paid for by anybody. Things that are useful to all should just be provided to all at no cost. For example, see: Swartz, Aaron.

      1. Yeah, but I could make Swartz’ entire argument by just amending it to say, “Any material produced using a government grant or by an employee of a tax-funded university should automatically be in the public domain.”

        The legislature can’t copyright the text of the laws. So the mooching tax parasites writing asinine “research papers” on my dime shouldn’t get to copyright their swill either.

        1. The legislature can’t copyright the text of the laws. So the mooching tax parasites writing asinine “research papers” on my dime shouldn’t get to copyright their swill either.

          I agree. But from what, admittedly little bits, I’ve read about Swartz, he was a total “information wants to be free” kinda guy. Seemed to me his entire existence was focused on having any kind of useful information just made completely available to everyone.

        2. 1. Not all research that appears in academic journals is taxpayer funded.
          2. The journals themselves are not tax payer funded.
          3. The process of publishing in a journal entails the core of the academic peer review process, which is managed by the journals, not by the government.
          4. You don’t really want a government-run or funded peer review process. You WANT it to be privately financed and indepdendent.

          1. But most of it is.

            I’m doing an area attack here.

      2. Because the “cost” was paid when we were taxed to pay people to sit around and write that JSTOR shit in the first place.

        1. The cost of publishing in a journal and the cost of doing the research are in two different buckets. You can sit around and research swill on the government dime, but when you try to get into a journal that is paid for via JSTOR, your JSTOR subscription fee helps pay the cost of managing the peer review process for your paper. Not the government. And that is what weeds the shitty research from the valid research. You’re paying for the service of having papers that are validated by academic peer review.

          Now, arguably sometihng like Wikipedia could do a decent job too. But the JSTOR system is governed by traditional peer review. If you want traditional peer review, you use JSTOR, and you pay for it. if you want free shit critiqued by the cloud, you use wikipedia.

          1. Sorry, Hazel.

            If the underlying content is government-financed and therefore not subject to copyright, you can’t bring an infringement action based on your arrangement of that material.

            If someone downloads all the RFP listings from fbo.gov right now, puts them into a “journal” and publishes it, I can steal that journal and make as many copies as I want and they can’t say fucking shit about it.

            If the underlying content shouldn’t be subject to copyright, the fact that you deigned to pick it out of the flotsam of shitty papers out there for peer review doesn’t make it copyrightable. You could copyright your peer comments, but not the paper.

      3. No, I think it’s more correct to say they think free service should be free and not paid for by anybody. Things that are useful to all should just be provided to all at no cost.

        That’s true. Most progressives don’t think someone else should pay for it, they think volunteers should donate it. Or they imagine that stuff just pops into existence from the ether. Or, still more likely, it just never occurs to them to think about how things get produced. The notion that someone had to do work to make that thing they like happen is just not a thought that ever crosses their minds.

        As I’ve noticed in countless other contexts, progressives seem to be cognitively incapable of understanding financial incentives or production.

    2. I don’t necessarily see how it’s “anti-market” to favor a paid-content model.

      I don’t think the issue is that they’re favoring a paid-content model, but the claim that an ad-supported model is somehow “free but with added secret theft.”

    3. One way this could happen is if companies start bundling access to a variety of content with your ISP services.

      Begone! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!

  9. …equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently.

    So showing the sites that people actually want to visit first in the search results is “bias”?

    WTF?

    How long does this guy think a search engine that deliberately showed people pay wall sites they can’t access as the first hits would last in the market?

    They could call it “blockedlinks.com” and their slogan could be, “Search with us if you don’t want to actually find anything”.

  10. NOPE!

  11. NOPE!

  12. “Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google “magazines that publish essays” or “magazines that publish short stories” ? it isn’t easy.”

    Actually it was extremely easy:
    [“magazines that publish essays”] – Harpers is mentioned in the title of the second result.
    [“magazines that publish short stories”] – Harpers is mentioned in the first result.

    1. Well, they’re “mentioned” but they aren’t linked to.

      The Harper’s editor didn’t write with clear meaning. Makes him a shitty writer. I’m a shitty writer too, but I’m not whining about how my shitty skills at my chosen profession only provide shitty income.

      Google business model is separating the wheat from the chaff and putting as much wheat at the top as possible. If you are a producer of chaff and you want to be closer to the top, Google wants you to pay for that because doing it has the potential to drive away their customers.

      The searchee is just as much a customer as a searcher. This is what pisses me off about whiners within the media – they have less business sense than a decapitated squirrel. Nearly every day you see a newspaper article about the “next great thing from Apple” or some other company. To me, that is essentially giving that company free advertising. Therefore, they can’t bitch and moan about falling ad revenue. I pretty much stopped buying newspapers because so many of the articles were nothing but unpaid advertisements/boostering for businesses or government agencies.

  13. I’m not whining about how my shitty skills at my chosen profession only provide shitty income.

    Clearly, you’re doing something wrong.

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