Google: Your Friend, Enemy or "Frenemy"
The LA Times has a timely interview with David Eun, Google’s vice president of content partnerships (aka television, movies, publishing and local-media industries) where he talks about Google’s developing relationship with content partners and why Google’s your friend, not your "frenemy".
[That term couldn't be made more annoying if they tried. It's worse than Web 2.0, the long tail and
canonc canonically kuh-NON-ih-kul-ih-zay-shun (thanks, Matt) combined. I didn't think that was possible.]
But now that a meaningless term has been created it means we can talk about it. Endlessly. At many conferences. [excited face!] [I can't even begin to express how much I dislike that word. --Susan]
Last year, Google very publicly established itself as a "frenemy" of content providers and traditional media, often stepping on toes as they expanded their presence into unGoogle territories. Belgium bellyached about Google stealing their content, those crazy Aussies are set to outlaw linking, the record industry wants to sue Google into oblivion, and odds are there were a lot more huffing and puffing, arms-folded executives sitting around this year’s holiday table. The fact is, Google is playing in other people’s waters and not everyone likes it.
Personally, I think everyone stands to benefit from the content deals Google has been making. Newspapers sites will get additional ad revenue and new readers, the record industry has a new medium to leverage the exposure of new artists and over time everyone will see that money flows both ways. Google represents an entirely new distribution channel for the folks putting out content and they’re smart to take advantage of it.
However, I can understand the apprehension of content providers going into these deals. We expect these deals to be mutually beneficial, but really, we haven’t seen any clear evidence yet. We’re all kind of going with Google’s word here. Let’s be honest, if someone walked into your office offering to help you do your job better once you signed this little form, you’d want to slap them in the face too. It’s natural.
But does Google understand that?
David Eun, the man tasked with being Google’s "We’re Not The Enemy" guy, doesn’t seem to. He calls content producer’s fears unjustified and argues that Google has no intention of competing with traditional media by creating content. I realize it’s his job to take that position, but he came off a little too dismissive in his responses for my taste.
I think most people get that Google doesn’t want to be a media company in the traditional sense of the word. They have no interest in actually producing the stuff, they’re not about that and they don’t want to be. They’re about advertising space. They want rights to your content so they can put ads on it.
Eun goes on to say that he doesn’t know what to make of it when people tell him they fear Google. He says: "You can always opt out: We never force you to work with us.”
No, people are not forced. I also was not forced to run 25 sets of bleachers every Friday during my previous life as an athlete, however, I knew if I didn’t my coach would pummel my face. It’s kind of the same way some content producers are feeling right now, especially groups like the newspaper sites who don’t understand why they don’t get special treatment with Google’s opt-out policy.
And for music distributors they’re finding either they let Google have access to their content or they’re left behind when their competitor signs the deals instead. Google has already signed deals with a handful of record companies, thereby putting the pressure on the rest to follow suit. No one’s forcing anyone, but the threat is there.
It’d be nice to see David Eun, and by extension Google, a little more understanding to that, especially since before his stint at Google, David was an executive for NBC and Time Warner Inc. How quickly we forget what it’s like to be on the other side of the contract.
I hope this is the year traditional media realizes that it’s okay to work with Google and establish partnerships. There’s a great opportunity for the print and music world to use the Internet as a new way to leverage content and increase revenue through Google. I also hope Google sees that content producers’ concerns aren’t completely unjustified and that addressing them would be a good first step.