Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller–American greats and American robber barons of a bygone era. The era may be gone, but American robber barons are as current as Twitter–at least that’s what Daniel Lyons thinks.
He points out that Amazon gets 70 cents of every dollar someone spends on a subscription to your blog or your newspaper or even Newsweek, in which Lyons’s article appears. Does that sound ridiculous to you? It does to Lyons and to antitrust lawyer David Boies, who has been hired to fight such monopolistic activities. But these new cyberbarons can get away with it because, well, because they are virtual monopolies. As Lyons says,
In the analog world, the lion’s share of the money ended up in the hands of big, bad media barons. This time around, the geeks in Silicon Valley are pocketing all the dough. Ironically enough, they present themselves as a bunch of pious, sweet-natured nerds who aren’t doing this for the money–they’re all about making the world a better place.
I wonder if the oil, rail and coal barons ever said anything similar? “We’re just providing transportation and energy to make this a better world. It takes a lot of money to do such things on a massive scale. We have to be big–to help the world.”
The further irony is that the original dream of many for the internet was complete freedom for content creators to publish, produce, promote and sell without the constraints of media giants. What has happened, though, is that Amazon, Google, Apple and a few others have largely taken control.
A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t afraid to bust the trusts. I wonder if we don’t need another cyber roughrider to come along and break up Google.