Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, says his company has now achieved such a state of advanced Googleness that the search engine is now able to "help" individuals decide what news they want to receive. And you thought Phorm was invasive? Martyn Warwick reports.
Speaking to the American Society of News Editors, Mr. Schmidt unsurprisingly said new sites should use Google technology to predict what individuals will want to read by reference to records of what they read in the past. He said "When I go to a news site, I want that news site to know more about me, what I care about. I don't want to be treated as a stranger." Martyn Warwick reports.
This is the second time in recent months Mr. Schmidt has materialised amongst the outcast and reviled of society. On this occasion he showed himself unafraid to mix with the most unpopular on the face of the earth as he manifested himself to journalists. The question now facing all hacks must be, "Are we worthy or will we be found wanting?"
It's only a few weeks since Mr. Schmidt appeared incarnate amongst the Doubting Thomases at the GSM's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and proceeded to proseletyse the awe-struck masses on the wonder and splendour that is the Cookie Monster.
Now he's corporealised himself in Washington DC further to spread the Gospel according to Google. The great man is confident that newspapers and the print media will eventually come up with ways to make money from content on the Internet. Unfortunately, it seems his insight does not run so deep as to be able to tell us exactly what that model might be except that it will be some sort of a combination of advertising and subscription - which, of course, no one in the print media had ever thought of before.
And the solution to the problems of the print and telecoms sectors? Why, naturally, it's to personalise content and disseminate it via mobile devices and, surprise, surprise, Google can help - for a price.
After all, it aggregates news through its search engine and directs users to sites providing free content whilst profiting mightily by running paid-for ads alongside the free stuff and it wants that happy state of affairs to continue.
However, for the print news media the truth is that the fox is in the hen-house and chickens are being picked off at random whilst those still on the perch try to appease Reynard by laying eggs for him to snack on between big meals.
Schmidt then told the editors, "We understand how fundamental your mission is" and that "newspapers are vital to democracy." Thanks for that and due note is taken of the use of the royal "we".
The Pluris Majestatis, as the first person/plural person pronoun is called, is a nossism routinely employed by monarchs since 1169 when Henry II of England first used it to indicate that he ruled and acted conjointly with God.
Queen Victoria was famous for putting-down upstarts guilty of lese majeste with a raised eyebrow and a sharp "We are not amused", whilst the last time the royal "we" was used by a commoner was when, in 1989 and on the birth of her first grandchild, the sainted Margaret Thatcher told the British public, ""We are a grandmother". The hoots of derision at such presumption could be heard on the moon.
Not for nothing is the traditional newsprint sector as suspicious of Google as is the telecoms industry. And it has good reason to accuse Google of siphoning-off readers and advertising revenues from newspaper and magazine websites.
Eric Scmidt's nostrum is, of course, that "Do no evil" Google should be regarded be the world in general and newspapers and magazines (and the mobile telecoms industry) in particular as a benign and ever well-meaning trusted partner.
Thus, Mr. Schmidt says, "We have a business model problem, we don't have a news problem." That's because the Internet "has replaced the economics of scarcity with economics of abundance and all of us are dealing with the consequences of that."
The CEO also returned to the refrain he first warbled at Barcelona. He said, "When I say Internet first, I mean mobile first. That's where the action is. That's where the growth is. It's a completely unwashed landscape." Yup, he did say "unwashed landscape". But then the rain in Spain does fall mainly on the plain.
Audience reaction was strangely muted - perhaps because it was in a state of ecstasy. However, one delegate stopped speaking in tongues for long enough to give a response in plain English. The executive editor of the Miami Herald, Anders Gyllenhaal, opined that whilst Google drives a lot of traffic to newspaper websites it cannot truly be described as a "partner". "The fact is," he said, "we are going in different directions."
That's what you think. Eric doesn't agree.
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