Googled: The End of the World As We Know It

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Penguin, Nov 3, 2009 - Business & Economics - 432 pages
2 Reviews
A revealing, forward-looking examination of the outsize influence Google has had on the changing media Landscape.

There are companies that create waves and those that ride or are drowned by them. As only he can, bestselling author Ken Auletta takes readers for a ride on the Google wave, telling the story of how it formed and crashed into traditional media businesses?from newspapers to books, to television, to movies, to telephones, to advertising, to Microsoft. With unprecedented access to Google?s founders and executives, as well as to those in media who are struggling to keep their heads above water, Auletta reveals how the industry is being disrupted and redefined.

Using Google as a stand-in for the digital revolution, Auletta takes readers inside Google?s closed-door meetings and paints portraits of Google?s notoriously private founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as those who work with?and against?them. In his narrative, Auletta provides the fullest account ever told of Google?s rise, shares the ?secret sauce? of Google?s success, and shows why the worlds of ?new? and ?old? media often communicate as if residents of different planets.

Google engineers start from an assumption that the old ways of doing things can be improved and made more efficient, an approach that has yielded remarkable results? Google will generate about $20 billion in advertising revenues this year, or more than the combined prime-time ad revenues of CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX. And with its ownership of YouTube and its mobile phone and other initiatives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Auletta his company is poised to become the world?s first $100 billion media company. Yet there are many obstacles that threaten Google?s future, and opposition from media companies and government regulators may be the least of these. Google faces internal threats, from its burgeoning size to losing focus to hubris. In coming years, Google?s faith in mathematical formulas and in slide rule logic will be tested, just as it has been on Wall Street.

Distilling the knowledge accrued from a career of covering the media, Auletta will offer insights into what we know, and don?t know, about what the future holds for the imperiled industry.
 

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I have read several books about Google over the years, and this one is certainly the best written of them all. This is not surprising - Ken Auletta is a writer, journalist and media critic for The New Yorker. His writing is of an exceptionally high quality and a pleasure to read. The book is also very well researched, with first-hand accounts from many of the key players at Google and other companies that prominently feature in this story. Many of the stories about Google's early years have been written about before in other books and articles, but there are also a substantial number of new, untold accounts. In particular, we get a better idea of who were the important early investors in Google and the order in which they supported the fledgling company. Several not-so-famous high-level operatives are profiled who had a substantial influence on Google's development. However, even though these profiles are not the typical puff-pieces that have come to dominate the popular business press, they are not all that critical and candid either. From the point of view of writing an interesting story this is somewhat to be expected. The triumvirate that runs Google despite their incredible business success is composed of three very geeky individuals that don't necessarily have the most exciting personalities. On the other hand certain other highly visible members of the Google hierarchy perform rather obscure functions in the company that are hard to get too excited about from the outsider's point of view. None of the books about Google that have come out so far provide us with the intriguing stories of what is really going on inside Google - clashing personalities, conflicting projects, dazzling new ideas, development dead ends, etc. This is particularly noticeable when comparing books about Google to books about some other prominent technology companies - Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Apple in particular, even though infamous for the level of secrecy, has enjoyed a spate of recent books and articles that reveal much more about its product development and internal affairs than any one of the books about Google that are out there.
There are a couple more weaknesses of this book from the point of view of content. Google is a company that prides itself above all on its technology, and yet you will find very little in terms of technological details in this book. Even if you are not someone who is intrigued by technology, it would be important to read about some more prominent technological aspects of Google, at least in order to put Google's success in context. Most technology companies don't succeed, and this is particularly true of search engines, and it would be important to understand what are the technical advantages that Google has that keep it so well ahead of all of its competitors.
The other big problem that I had with this book is that it provides an inordinate amount of space to other companies and business developments in recent years. In particular, Auletta seems to be very fascinated with the media business and the rapid changes that have been happening to it in recent few years. For instance, the newspaper industry is going through what could be the greatest evolution in its history, and this book tries to give this change a perspective. Google and other internet companies are the key players in this transformation, and it is important to understand how newspapers and Google are influencing each other. However, Auletta doesn't seem to be able to strike the right balance and he dedicates more coverage to the industry that he is undoubtedly more familiar with - newspapers.
Overall, despite its flaws, this is very interesting book to read as long as you don't expect to learn too much about Google proper.
 

Contents

Title Page
CHAPTER TWO Starting in a Garage
CHAPTER THREE Buzz but Few Dollars
CHAPTER FOUR Prepping the Google Rocket
CHAPTER FIVE Innocence or Arrogance?
CHAPTER SEVEN The New Evil Empire?
CHAPTER EIGHT Chasing the
CHAPTER NINE War on Multiple Fronts
CHAPTER TEN Waking the Government Bear
CHAPTER TWELVE Is Old Media Drowning?
CHAPTER FOURTEEN Happy Birthday
CHAPTER FIFTEEN Googled
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Where Is the Wave Taking Google?
Acknowledgements
INDEX
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Ken Auletta has written the “Annals of Communications” column and profiles for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of eight books, including Three Blind Mice, Greed and Glory on Wall Street, and World War 3.0. In naming him America’s premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review said, “No other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly as has Auletta.” He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

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