Why Google is not King

Who will pay for news production? I asked in January, upon Time Magazine’s “radical editorial changes” embracing a Web-based new media model that news produced by others is free for the taking, as long as “links” are given in exchange.

Who will pay for news production? I asked in January, upon Time Magazine’s “radical editorial changes” embracing a Web-based new media model that news produced by others is free for the taking, as long as “links” are given in exchange. 

Now, the Time Magazine “Google Gooses Big Media” declares Viacom’s Sumner Redstone’s assertion that “content is king” not only to be a cliché, but a “dubious claim.” 

Justin Fox’s assertion that there is a “certain inevitability to (Google CEO) Schmidt's vision of a world where all content producers succumb to the rules of the Web,” is the more dubious claim, however. 

Fox relies on the oft heard, and Web 2.0 popularized, notion that media value lies not in content, but in distribution, to support his content is not really king claim.

I debunk that belief in Web 2.0: Does ‘old media’ get it?, making the case for why content not only continues to be king on the Web, but its worth actually increases! 

Fox gives props to Google for “rewriting the rules of distribution and selling ads.”  The big movie, TV and print outfits may never catch up, he concludes:

Sure, movies, music and TV shows have value--as do, I feel compelled to add, magazine columns. But they alone have never generated the huge, reliable profits that keep investors happy and pay for midtown-Manhattan skyscrapers. No, the big money in media has always been in distribution.

If “the big money in media has always been in distribution,” does that render content less valuable? Of course not. Any distribution model, including old media, is literally worthless, if there is no desirable product to distribute.

The facile argument that machine and user powered "almost free" content aggregation and distribution are beautiful Web 2.0 things, neglects the fundamental fact that content must be produced, and should be paid for, before it can be aggregated and distributed.

Moreover, user preference for old media expensive to professionally produce content over fellow user generated "friends and family" fare is also given short drift, perhaps deemed to be Web 2.0 politically incorrect.

Fox also puts forth the popular belief that Google is “the most valuable media company in the world,” apparently basing that assertion on market cap. GOOG, of course, is not a sure thing, and either is its underlying no need to pay for content business model that has, to now, fueled a Wall Street run.

Fox attempts to belie the notion that the movies, music, TV shows, books and journalism that old media companies produce are the core of their business. At the same time, however, he credits Google as being the “most valuable media company,” because it “helps people find stuff on those endless online shelves,” the content “stuff” of others.

Google is dependent upon others’ “stuff.”. Going forward, however, Google can no longer depend upon others’ “stuff” being free for the taking, as Viacom has made it a billion dollars worth abundantly clear.

Google’s free content kingdom is at risk.

ALSO: Why Google will never pay for content and  YouTube: Why Google fears $1 billion Unsafe Harbor and Should Google really buy Intuit?

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