A recent story/scandal I keep being drawn back to is that of Grant Shapps, Tory party co-chairman, former housing minister and former (result!) web enrepreneur and marketing guru, aka Michael Green, now, vicariously, aka Sebastian Fox.
I’m quite happy to acknowledge that making millions from his [wife's] web businesses qualifies him/her as a successful entrepreneur. But it’s not just about winning is it? It’s about not being a sleazebag.
His/her HowToCorp and related businesses use[d] dubious means to peddle dubious products and hot air, promising prospective customers instant riches [subject to small print] for doing next to nothing other than buying a box of tricks, fiddling around with it for a few minutes, then polluting the web with the results.
In response to bad press HowToCorp has been rapidly disappearing its sites and promotional forum posts from the web. There’s plenty of reports to follow up, but I’ll point you to this on Bloggerhead for a flavour of what they got up to.
Of course you do in fact need more than a box of tricks to succeed and Michael/Sebastian are/were not shy to tell you HowTo[Succeed]. But have you actually listened to any of this drivel? Try this on achieving “stunning success” with a Profit Dairy.
There are serious copyright issues relating to scraping and “spinning” other people’s content which is at the heart of much that HowToCorp was up to. But it’s the general sleaziness of such “wealth creation” schemes that gets me. Anything that turns a profit is OK. Misleading? No, just good marketing. Ethical? Useful? These are not questions such entrepreneurs ask themselves. This is well illustrated by Jolyon Jenkins on Radio 4 recently in his investigation into The Internet Millionaire’s Club.
You only have to look upstream a little to see who set this off. Google (et al) have spawned an SEO industry much of which concerns itself with creating content and links made for Google rather than for the customers it serves, and “wealth creators” (fed by Michael Green & Co) auto-generating yet more content on an industrial scale made purely for the Adsense $$ it generates.
Google has demoted/removed Michael Green’s sites from it’s indexes in response to the outcry, and to its credit its recent Panda algorithm update was aimed specifically at demoting low value content sites such as these. But if ever there was a business encouraging socially useless enterprise, it is Google.