Saturday, January 20, 2007

Google, the McCartney Effect, and Writers

What's up with Google? Famous for searching, the company has moved into advertising, E-mail, and other Web ventures. Why? It's almost as if McDonald's started building houses, simply because it has the money.

What I think it happening is this: Having reached the summit and finding it can go no higher, Google hopes to duplicate the exhilaration of its original run-up to success by engaging in new projects. It’s not about the money; it’s about the magic.

But the magic isn’t there, thanks to what I call “The McCartney Effect.”

Paul McCartney has worked to recapture the magic of the Beatles’ early days since he wrote “Get Back.” But those days cannot live again because the uncertainty, anticipation, and risk are gone. That’s the McCartney Effect: You can’t undo the legacy of success.

Succeed or fail, Google trying new Web ventures is like Paul McCartney organizing new bands, making movies, writing opera and so on. He’s still McCartney, and Google is still Google. Neither will ever “get back.”

This is not uncommon in pop music or other facets of the entertainment industry, where few people every really drop out and disappear to the extent that they must truly start over as an unknown. When a person or organization reaches a certain level of fame, it is impossible to subtract that fame.

More examples: Chuck Berry returning from infamy and prison, or Willy Nelson coming back after being wiped out by the IRS. No problem! No risks or uncertainties. Each had his fame behind him--fame and images that obviously could not be taken away.

The effect doesn't seem to carry over to writers, though. Once a writer slips away from reader consciousness, making a comeback is like starting over. And if a writer tries a new endeavor, the fame and image don't seem to carry over--unlike, say, an actress becoming a singer, or vice-versa.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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