OFF THE GRID

Should Google Worry?

Nov 30, 09 | 9:12 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Google is under media attack.

Rupert Murdoch is the most outspoken anti-Googlist, but his fulminations are now followed by a new book, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, by the New Yorker’s media writer, Ken Auletta—the closest thing the media world has to a court biographer—which collects the further fulminations of, seemingly, all other top media executives.

David Carr, the New York Times’s media writer, who has made himself the paper’s ex-officio PR representative, today blames the fall of the media industry on Google’s ability to undercut the traditional media’s price for ads.

Does it matter to Google—nearly as invulnerable, on the basis of its market share, as a company can get—this sour grapes and calumny on the part of its competitors?

Curiously, it might.

Not in the long run, of course. In the long run, this is the story of pitiless industrial transformation in which Google itself will face the competition of even more pitiless search engines and digital information processors and purveyors. But in the short run, Google is probably beginning to feel it’s got a public relations problem on its hands.

The media may not be able to hold its audience or maintain its business model, but it can still deliver bad press, which is one of the scariest things in modern life.

It is also an old-fashioned thing, bad press, part of the autocratic and bullying and monopolistic nature of old-fashioned media. New media, largely agnostic when it comes to the content it distributes, doesn’t know from bad press. Google can do just about everything better than old media, but it can’t attack back.

Now, mostly, I suspect, Google doesn’t think in old media terms of wounded pride and vanity. Mostly, these tech boys are oblivious to ordinary emotions. But only up to a point. After all, they have shareholders and families like everybody else who ask, why are they saying such terrible things about you?

Industrial transformation and technological progress makes its way in one direction, but nevertheless is continually delayed, thwarted, and compromised.

The installed-base media has one trick left, to turn its abilities to undermine and demonize, and to do so in concert and with a relentless drumbeat, on Google.

In the long run, that won’t be worth a hill of beans. But in the short run, Google, if it isn’t as tough as it thinks it is, could be looking at a thousand cuts and myriad concessions.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
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