This was an interesting book because it starts out as dreary hagiography, but turns into a pretty interesting treatise on what’s going on in Mountain View, California.
The book is broken into 4 parts:
Different Planets – a one chapter read on what the impact Google has had on old media and advertising and advertisers in general. For instance (and this is a recurring theme) “Google doesn’t make gut decisions” [pg 9], it’s all about real, verifiable data – brought to you by the humble cookie.
The Google Story – the rise of Google as a company, the whole growth story encased in 6 chapters that brings us to 2005 before the ‘bears’ they face came to play. I was not aware that Jeff Bezos was one of Google’s ‘Angel Investors,’ and that much of Amazon’s search tech is based on Google’s. One of Google’s first investors notes that when the founders were at Stanford, they were idealistically opposed to advertising. [pg 40] This, obviously, is no longer the case. 🙂
Google Versus the Bears – 7 more chapters spanning the years 2005 to 2008. He discusses companies coming to terms to deciding whether to compete with Google head to head or to work with it. Killshots occur regularly, but the discussions about YouTube [pg 155ish] contain the delicious salty tears of old-media moguls who in 2006 still thought content should be paid for up front with huge licensing fees. Compare to today, when if something happens on the Tonight Show, NBC themselves are crowing about watching it on YouTube (with ads enabled) the next morning.
Googled – Auletta’s thesis is laid bare: Companies either make waves, ride them or are impacted by them. He discusses every company that is impacted by Google in these terms. Even Google itself. There’s an interesting discussion on Google Books and copyrights that is a clear standout in the book. [starting pg 256] As of now, Google can produce for the user up to 20% of an out-of-print but still copyrighted book for any searcher – and keep 34% of all profits generated from affiliate sales or advertising linked to that search. How this money gets distributed down the chain from Google to publishers to authors is probably a nightmare, but ASCAP manages to get jukebox money into the hands of the Rolling Stones, so probably a similar system. The “hubris” as portrayed by traditional media companies during Google’s infancy is mind-boggling and amusing (of course, with the benefit of hindsight).
As the MPAA is learning right now, Google’s lawyers are just as bloodthirsty and numerous as Hollywood’s, and Google has the money to drop fighting the sort of C&Ds that would shutter a normal business.
Google’s success is inarguable, but success might not be its long-term destiny. Auletta reminds us that Google has been in existence for barely a decade, and that years ago General Motors, IBM, AOL, and the television networks were regarded as failsafe. Auletta supposes [pg 332] that the real threat to Google might be its own hubris, and its downfall may come from within. Remember, the RedBox idea was generated inside of Blockbuster corporate, and they dismissed it as too out-there. Auletta closes with this:
“Other companies have profounly disrupted the business landscape [but] nowhere in the approximately two dozen tetabits of data stored on their servers will we find another company that has swept so swiftly across the media horizon. [pg 336]