I’ll admit that I’m as much of a fan of the contrarian argument as anyone — maybe even as much as my buddy Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0. But I think he and some others are a little too quick to congratulate Seth Jayson of Motley Fool for his insight into how Google is “killing the Internet,” as the Foolish columnist puts it.
The first thing that bugged me about Seth’s column wasn’t that he blames Google for all the spam-blogs and other crap on the Internet, it was the fact that he started off with a crack about all the insider stock selling at the search company — and he comes back to it at the end, as though all those insider sales are a clear indication that Google is pulling one over on the stock market. This one has been tossed around a fair bit since the news came out that Google’s insiders sales accounted for about 51 per cent of all the insider selling in the Bay area in the first quarter.
There are a couple of problems with that line of argument, however, and the first one is kind of obvious: Who in their right mind wouldn’t sell some of their stock if it had gone up by more than 500 per cent? And the other problem with the argument is that the vast majority of those massive share sales by Eric Schmidt and Larry Page and Sergey Brin were pre-programmed long before Google’s stock rose to the heights it is at now. If you look at the insider transactions in Yahoo Finance, you will see the words “automatic sale” beside almost every single one of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Seth and others have a point that Google’s click fraud problem could be larger than many investors (or advertisers) expect. But it’s stretching things to say the company is somehow killing the Internet. I remember what search was like before Google came along, and it is a hell of a lot better on balance. The volume of junk mail doesn’t mean the postal system is broken — it just needs to be managed better. And all those insider sales prove exactly nothing.