Googled: Schmidt Wants To Build A "$100 Billion Media Company"

Comment

If Google were a sitcom, it would open every week with co-founder Sergey Brin arriving late to a meeting “out of breath in a T-shirt, gym shorts, and on Rollerblades.” This familiar depiction of Brin finds its way into practically every major profile ever written about the company, and so too does it dutifully roll into Ken Auletta’s newest book, Googled: The End Of The World As We Know It.

The first scene is a 2003 meeting with Mel Karmazin (then CEO of Viacom) at the Google campus with a sweaty Brin, Google’s other co-founder Larry Page, and CEO Eric Schmidt. At the end of a his visit, Karmazin tells them he is appalled that Google is “fucking with the magic” of the media business by actually telling advertisers which ads work and which ones don’t.

Auletta is a writer for the New Yorker steeped in the media industry, and while he spent a lot of time with Brin, Page, and Schmidt, his best stories like this one come from the titans of media he’s been covering and schmoozing with for decades. As such the focus of the book is on Google’s rise as a media company at a time when every other media company is feeling threatened by the Internet, and Google specifically.

Googled is not published yet, but I managed to get my hands on a copy of the uncorrected proofs. One of the most startling assertions Auletta makes right up front and repeats throughout is this:

In 2007, Eric Schmidt told me that one day Google could become a hundred-billion-dollar media company—more than twice the size of Time Warner, the Walt Disney Company, or News Corporation.

Later on, you find out that Schmidt qualified this statement with a list of very large businesses Google would have to enter successfully to some day get to that $100 billion figure. These include mobile, TV, enterprise, and existing bets like YouTube will have to pay off financially as well. All of this was part of a hypothetical “planning process where we said, is it mathematically possible for Google to become a hundred-billion-dollar corporation.”

But no matter, $100 billion sounds impressive. Auletta does a masterful job turning Google’s story into one that is about his favorite subject, the media firmament, and how Google secretly plans to shake it.

Auletta, however, is forced to hinge his narrative on quotes like that one from 2007 because Schmidt isn’t saying things like that anymore. Google is currently so vilified by the fearful media industry—from newspapers and book publishers to TV networks and movie studios—that Schmidt is bending over backwards these days to sound more conciliatory.

By media, Auletta means advertising, not content. Google is more than happy to leave the content production to others. The following passage is typical of how Auletta spins the Google story into the most epic media battle of our times:

Still, Page told me, he does not see Google as a content company. Google’s computers can “aggregate content; we can process it, rank it, we can do lots of things that are valuable. We can build systems that let lots of people create content themselves. That’s really where our leverage is.” Their leverage, inevitably, makes it easier for audiences to migrate away from old media. This will cause some distress, but satisfying everyone, including traditional media companies, is not Google’s goal, he said; serving users is. “You don’t want to do things the wring way that is causing real damage to the world or to people. But you also need to make progress, and that’s not always going to make everybody happy. Armed with this conviction, Page and Google’s engineers have made many media companies very unhappy indeed.

The scope of their ambition makes even other Internet entrepreneurs, like Marc Andreesen, suspicious of their motives. Andreessen provides one of the choicest quotes in the book:

“Their game plan is to do everything. Google is Andy Kaufman. The whole thing with Andy Kaufman is you could never tell when he was joking. Google comes out with a straight face and said, ‘We’re just going to be a search engine. We’re not going to be doing any of this other stuff’”—competing with advertising agencies, with telephone companies by getting into the cell phone business, with Hollywood, with publishers, with newspapers. “But I am quite sure they’re joking.”

Did Andy Kaufman ever wear Rollerblades?

The excerpts above give a flavor for the book and its slant, which alternately characterizes Google as both a growing media giant and a media killer at the same time. Auletta culls great fly-on-the-wall anecdotes from his sources, both at Google and at the media companies it may one day displace. But that is only one facet of Google’s incredible story. As such, Googled reflects the author’s lifelong preoccupation with the media industry as much as it reflects a complete picture of Google. But that’s why people read Ken Auletta books, to get that point of view, and for his exhaustive research and the riveting detail he brings to his subjects. And if it makes readers see Google in a new light, then it can be forgiven its overriding preoccupation.

More TechCrunch

Tags

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

6 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?