I didn’t exactly meet anyone from Google last week—I met Nikesh Arora, the company’s head of sales and business development, a fortnight ago at the HT Leadership Summit—but the company, and its founders, came up in two key meetings I had last week.
The first was with Rupert Murdoch who broke bread with several cabinet ministers and editors during a recent visit to New Delhi. I have no idea what Murdoch discussed at the other tables (he had a seat at each of the three, and moved from one to another so as to spend time with everyone) but at the table where I was seated, the discussion was about Google. Murdoch is the cheerleader of the paid content move on the Internet, and is among those who share the view that Google makes money off other people’s content. He said he knew the founders of Google, and that he thought it odd that they had never read a newspaper, and that their company could no longer access his content once he put it behind a firewall and took it pay. (Murdoch also said that Kindle didn’t work for newspapers and that he was looking at what would). For the record, Murdoch’s News Corp. owns Dow Jones and Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal with which Mint has a content partnership in India.
The second was with Yahoo’s Carol Bartz who met with a few editors on her first visit to India after taking over as the company’s CEO. Bartz, who insisted her company was in the “centre of people’s lives online” business, displayed her Google fixation when she said Yahoo was much more than a white page with a box (a clear reference to Google’s home page) and, in response to a specific question comparing the two companies, that the “boys from Mountain View don’t get it”.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Isn’t it interesting that the mindspace of two very different chief executives—one of a large and established media firm and the other of a once-glorious Internet firm that is now seeking to reinvent itself as a media company of sorts —be dominated by a company that is still in a single line of business (at least in terms of revenue), and was started well after News Corp. and a little after Yahoo?
Through the years, a succession of companies have sought to define themselves as “the” Internet company. And many media firms have tried to establish a presence across mediums, established and emerging alike. Yet, at this point in time, their strategies as well as the strategies of advertising firms—let’s not forget that it was WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell who popularized the term “frenemy” to define Google—are usually focused on thwarting Google, or responding to something the firm does.
If you’re the Google in this story, it’s a great position to be in for any company. You do your own thing, and the industry or category sort of evolves around you.
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