Four Lessons from Googled
I just finished Googled, The End of the World as We Know It, by Ken Aulletta, arguably the best media critic of our times. And while it’s not a social media book per se, I would strongly suggest it belongs on the list as it’s chock full of anecdotes, insights and implications for any company that wants to compete on the new media battlefield.
There are amusing yet telling stories, like Mel Karmazin’s first visit to Google in 2003, when he actually declared that measurement was “fucking with the magic,” implying that ad dollars should go to the best sales person not the most effective medium.
Lesson: arrogance can’t win in the new digital democracy.
Throughout the book readers find constant reminders (AOL, Excite, Lycos, Digital, Wang) that we can’t predict; we can only prepare. Combine them with great examples of what Clayton Christenson labeled the “innovator’s dilemma,” (NY Times, network television, music industry) and chances are you’ll do a better job of identifying your own tendency to defend existing business models at the expense of embracing necessary change.
Lesson: don’t hold on to the past with too tight a grip.
Through Auletta’s filter we discover all that Google did right (20 percent, belief in the wisdom of crowds, do no evil mantra) as well as where they failed (China censorship, for one) and what their greatest challenges maybe in the years to come (trust, privacy, government intervention).
Impressive is Google’s willingness to experiment, take risks and innovate and along with their relentless standard of hiring only “spectacular” people, even if it means Sergey and Larry have to interview every single engineering applicant.
Lesson: first, create a culture.
And finally, while Auletta gets to Google’s shortcomings and excesses, this book is as much about those of us who aren’t Google. Why didn’t the NY Times invent CNN or become a search engine? How is it Sports Illustrated didn’t start ESPN? What about AOL the company that launched Instant Messenger losing that space to Facebook?
Lesson: even if you’re a media company find a way to hire engineers and developers.
The end of the world as we know it can be interpreted any number of ways. From our loss of privacy, to the concentrated control of one company, to the need for the rest of us to think differently.
Have you read this book? If so, what meaning does it have for your business?
Great comments/summary, Edward.
Haven't read the book yet, but perhaps there are some points not mentioned in the book that were asked by the interviewer? Aired on 12/23/09 on Charlie Rose.
Edward: Your comments are dead-on, as usual.
I'm a huge fan of Aulletta and "Googled" didn't let me down.
The first few chapters are like a slo-mo replay of the past decade and the crumbling of the old. Fundamentally, maybe without even knowing it, they championed the essence of crowdsourcing.
That said, the notion of Google, at it's core, is incredibly dangerous. It's very easy to wear tee shirts and espouse bike-sharing and massages. It's very easy to park your mountain bike in front of a sign that reads, "Don't be evil." It's quite another to actually, in real life, remain true to those words.
Google's acquisition of information is terrifying and counter-intuitive to the founder's basic beliefs.
Somewhere, Orwell, Huxley, and Sinclair are raising a pint to Brin and Page and laughing until they wet themselves.
That all goes without saying. The control, privacy, data collection are, or should be, major concerns. And to Auletta they are. Though that seemed to be a review for someone else to write. My intended approach (see above response to Ben Kunz) was simply to suggest that there is a lot in this book about the rest of us who didn't create the next best thing in our own industry and why. Interestingly you could read this book and come away angry, scared, concerned, appreciative or inspired. That's quite a spectrum of possibility, wouldn't you say?
I'll now have to read this.
I often wonder, though, if Google doesn't get too much credit for creating its own success. If you follow the logic of power laws, there is always a concentration of power in any resource. Someone had to become the leader in helping people navigate the Internet. Yes, Google's closure of CPM ads sold by sales guys in favor of a mathematical auction was a stroke of genius. I heard somewhere that Google's original simple layout -- designed with white space because the founders could barely structure HTML -- was also part of its appeal. Who knows? Someone else would have won if Google had not.
I don't mean to denigrate the moves Google made to become a crowdsourced algorithm for navigating the web. It's do-no-evil, let others point the way methods are a nice change in the business world, and hopefully some of that will stick.
But it's always hard to look at the random events that make any one business or person succeed. Someone has to lead. Finding yourself in that position is often more luck than talent.
I'll read the book and see, thanks.
.-= Ben Kunzu00c2u00b4s last blog ..The allure of recency =-.
Good points and much of Auletta's premise is on where Google has failed to mature or remains naive. Then, of course, there is the privacy thing. But there have been enough reviews on that approach, I presume, so I wanted to take a different tact and offer up examples that were about the rest of us (that I thought were inherent in the book). Google's success says as much about old media failures as it does about their own growth. It's a reminder that even in media, advertising, content, and video arenas that engineers have become as important as the traditional media content creators. And finally, it's evidence, somewhat, that the vision (long term) and culture imposed by two determined founders at the expense of many traditional business objectives (short term short term short term) can propel a company forward. These are all worth noting. Plus the fact that they fucked with the magic and got away with it.
Can't wait to read this. A Christmas gift waiting to be started. You've whetted my appetite. Thanks Edward. B
.-= Ben Malbonu00c2u00b4s last blog ..Crowdsourcing a Holiday Playlist: Taped Together =-.
I just finished GOOGLED as well. Ken Auletta is a gifted journalist. I think you've captured the main points quite well.
I like Larry Lessig's assessment that Googler's "have drunk the Kool-Aid."
No company is impregnable. It will be interesting to see where Google is in 2020.
.-= Roger von Oechu00c2u00b4s last blog ..Personal Highlights of the '00s =-.