Kara Swisher

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BoomTown Decodes Google CEO Schmidt's Shut-Up-You-Whiny-News-Folk Op-Ed (So You Don't Have To)!

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


Google CEO Eric Schmidt did one of his patented throat-clearers in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal today and it pretty much begs for translation.

Well, BoomTown shall not tarry from the task of decoding the extra-long rumination from the head of Google (GOOG), who was responding to the recent spate of aggressive attacks by traditional media publishers.

They have blamed the search giant for everything from their current business woes to the destruction of journalism to Tiger Woods’s dicey marital troubles.

Okay, not that! But the rest for sure.

First and foremost among the attackers has been Rupert Murdoch, CEO and ruler-of-all-he-surveys at News Corp. (NWS), which owns The Wall Street Journal and this Web site.

How ironic, yet still typically cozy from a corporate bigwig point of view! I call you a cur in public, but please use my newspaper so that I can get some decent traffic from this wrestling match.

But all is not what it seems in the Schmidt piece, of course, so here’s the translation:

What Schmidt wrote: How Google Can Help Newspapers

Video didn’t kill the radio star, and the Internet won’t destroy news organizations. It will foster a new, digital business model.


Translation: We come in peace, always. You know, like the freakily calm lady from “V,” who is really a lizard under all that pretty and is actually secretly trying to decide between grilling and broiling all you whiny news people.


Also, you can address me in the future as Emperor Palpatine.

What Schmidt wrote: It’s the year 2015. The compact device in my hand delivers me the world, one news story at a time. I flip through my favorite papers and magazines, the images as crisp as in print, without a maddening wait for each page to load.

Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. So while I get all the news and comment, I also see stories tailored for my interests. I zip through a health story in The Wall Street Journal and a piece about Iraq from Egypt’s Al Gomhuria, translated automatically from Arabic to English. I tap my finger on the screen, telling the computer brains underneath it got this suggestion right.

Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I’d never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.

Translation: It’s the year 2015 in the United States of Google, where the new country colors are a festive green, blue, red and yellow.


As per the new Declaration of Googlependence, besides the tracking chip in your thighs, every citizen will be outfitted with a tablet running Chrome and looking suspiciously like a large iPhone, except that Apple (AAPL) was outlawed in the Fanboy Purge of 2010.

Every day, citizens will receive news specially aimed at them, such as “The Health Benefits of Sergey Worship.” Ads will also be tailored to citizens’ likes and dislikes, such as a pitch for Googley deodorant with the motto: “Search me, because I smell nice!”

Costs will be billed to your accounts at the National Bank of Google.

What Schmidt wrote: This is a long way from where we are today. The current technology–in this case the distinguished newspaper you are now reading–may be relatively old, but it is a model of simplicity and speed compared with the online news experience today. I can flip through pages much faster in the physical edition of the Journal than I can on the Web. And every time I return to a site, I am treated as a stranger.

So when I think about the current crisis in the print industry, this is where I begin–a traditional technology struggling to adapt to a new, disruptive world. It is a familiar story: It was the arrival of radio and television that started the decline of newspaper circulation. Afternoon newspapers were the first casualties. Then the advent of 24-hour news transformed what was in the morning papers literally into old news.


Translation: [Rachel: Please insert usual pap boilerplate here damning the newspaper business with faint praise. History of how change hurts, but is inevitable…blah, blah, blah. Please make sure to deliver a few digs too, like how–unlike Google–newspapers have no idea what their readers did last summer. Like we do. Cue evil Mwahahahaha laugh here.]

What Schmidt wrote: Now the Internet has broken down the entire news package with articles read individually, reached from a blog or search engine, and abandoned if there is no good reason to hang around once the story is finished. It’s what we have come to call internally the atomic unit of consumption.

Translation: “Atomic unit of consumption” is one of those terms we don’t expect you small-brained people to even begin to understand. Although you use only eight percent of your mental capacity, we here at Google use an average of 71 percent, tracking on our search share.

What Schmidt wrote: Painful as this is to newspapers and magazines, the pressures on their ad revenue from the Internet is causing even greater damage. The choice facing advertisers targeting consumers in San Francisco was once between an ad in the Chronicle or Examiner. Then came Craigslist, making it possible to get local classifieds for free, followed by Ebay and specialist Web sites. Now search engines like Google connect advertisers directly with consumers looking for what they sell.


Translation: I also don’t expect you Luddites will get this, but all your base are belong to us.

For those who need an older cultural reference, it is like the end of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Um, as much as you Hollywood types like a happy ending, Butch and the Kid did not make it.

What Schmidt wrote: With dwindling revenue and diminished resources, frustrated newspaper executives are looking for someone to blame. Much of their anger is currently directed at Google, whom many executives view as getting all the benefit from the business relationship without giving much in return. The facts, I believe, suggest otherwise.

Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue–for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.

Translation: Shut your overstuffed pie holes, you grumbling antiques. You were dying by the cell long before our superior technology arrived to save the day and help you out of your sorry mess.


Plus, we toss you all that traffic and you still manage to fumble our perfect pass like the pikers you are. (In truth, you are Charlie Brown and we are Lucy.)

Also, have you ever heard of “fair use”? It’s the law now and we can hire more lobbyists in Washington, D.C., than you with the bazillions and gamillions of dollars we make from all those tiny little blue links.

You do realize I have a key to the the White House and visit more times than Joe Biden?

What Eric wrote: The claim that we’re making big profits on the back of newspapers also misrepresents the reality. In search, we make our money primarily from advertisements for products. Someone types in digital camera and gets ads for digital cameras. A typical news search–for Afghanistan, say–may generate few if any ads. The revenue generated from the ads shown alongside news search queries is a tiny fraction of our search revenue.


Translation: Here’s an easy formula for you to grok: Michael Jackson+the pretty boy from “Twilight”+digital cameras=Big bucks for Google! Some thumbsucker you did on Afghanistan, however worthy and important for our nation’s future=14 cent CPM, but only if a drunken Lindsay Lohan story is in close proximity.

What Schmidt wrote: It’s understandable to look to find someone else to blame. But as Rupert Murdoch has said, it is complacency caused by past monopolies, not technology, that has been the real threat to the news industry.

Translation: [Rachel: Please insert Rupe quote that actually hangs him here.]

What Schmidt wrote: We recognize, however, that a crisis for news-gathering is not just a crisis for the newspaper industry. The flow of accurate information, diverse views and proper analysis is critical for a functioning democracy. We also acknowledge that it has been difficult for newspapers to make money from their online content. But just as there is no single cause of the industry’s current problems, there is no single solution. We want to work with publishers to help them build bigger audiences, better engage readers, and make more money.

Meeting that challenge will mean using technology to develop new ways to reach readers and keep them engaged for longer, as well as new ways to raise revenue combining free and paid access. I believe it also requires a change of tone in the debate, a recognition that we all have to work together to fulfill the promise of journalism in the digital age.

Translation: Really–we’re from Google and we’re here to help! Mwahahahahaha.

Frette Classic 480

Seriously, you guys, please go back to demonizing Microsoft (MSFT) or those banker salaries or the health care bill.

While my gabillions of dollars are more than protecting me from the blows you are trying to land, I am not liking the hairy eyeballs I got at the Allen & Co. conference at Sun Valley last summer. I think Washington Post head Don Graham even short-sheeted my 600-thread count Frette bedding there.

What Schmidt wrote: Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory–which seems to work in practice–is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.

Translation: [Rachel: Please insert some kooky-named Google 20 percent project we have no intention of really going large on here, so they think we really are working on something to save them. Those media folks like Hail Mary tech solutions, even if they don’t even know how to turn them on.]

What Schmidt wrote: Nor is there a choice, as some newspapers seem to think, between charging for access to their online content or keeping links to their articles in Google News and Google Search. They can do both.


Translation: You de-indexin’ me? You de-indexin’ me? You de-indexin’ me? Then who the hell else are you de-indexin’? You de-indexin’ me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the %*#! do you think you’re de-indexin’?”

What Schmidt wrote: This is a start. But together we can go much further toward that fantasy news gadget I outlined at the start. The acceleration in mobile phone sophistication and ownership offers tremendous potential. As more of these phones become connected to the Internet, they are becoming reading devices, delivering stories, business reviews and ads. These phones know where you are and can provide geographically relevant information. There will be more news, more comment, more opportunities for debate in the future, not less.

The best newspapers have always held up a mirror to their communities. Now they can offer a digital place for their readers to congregate and talk. And just as we have seen different models of payment for TV as choice has increased and new providers have become involved, I believe we will see the same with news. We could easily see free access for mass-market content funded from advertising alongside the equivalent of subscription and pay-for-view for material with a niche readership.

Translation: Smartphones are the answer! Sure! Your aging demo loves reading teeny-weeny writing on a device they want to throw against a wall.

Or maybe you can be like HBO! Except you’ll need more borderline porn and Mafia guys.


What Schmidt wrote: I certainly don’t believe that the Internet will mean the death of news. Through innovation and technology, it can endure with newfound profitability and vitality. Video didn’t kill the radio star. It created a whole new additional industry.

Translation: A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald