Artists are bristling at Google’s invitation to help design skins for their Chrome browser, since Google is offering them the chance to work for free. Critics are pointing to Google’s $1.4 billion profit margin in the first quarter of 2009 as evidence that they can afford to pay artists.
Google, of course, makes that profit from GMail, Google docs, Google Calendar, Blogger, YouTube, and a host of useful online tools that consumers have to pay for… right? Actually, all of those are free services. In fact, Google offers any web user an awful lot for free.
It’s not altruistic – Google does it for exposure, because the more you use their products the more they can advertise to you – and the more likely they can put an ad in front of your face.
Google, which started as a humble search engine, realized years ago that the availability of online tools meant the market would eventually set the price for certain things at $0. Given a changing technological environment, Google changed their business model.
Good for the artists who have proclaimed that they don’t need Google for exposure – it means they are doing well enough that they don’t need to sacrifice salary for experience, the way an intern might.
The fact is, Google doesn’t need to pay for their services, either and will get their browser skin designed one way or another. The big winners are artists seeking exposure who are willing to sacrifice payment for their core services in exchange for a chance to be in front of more eyeballs – appropriately enough, the artists who think like Google.