You know those times when you read a blog post and realise in the first paragraph, or maybe a bit further along, that the author has really missed or misinterpreted a basic point along the way?
I’m not, I promise, picking on Lisa Williams who posted the link to it and whose project I also blogged about this morning (and where, I’d also like to note, she left a great comment explaining her project further). Anyway, enough waffle in the place of what should have been a simple link credit, I draw your attention to Susan Mernit’s post “Paradigm shift: what Google didn’t buy” where Mernit says:
“…That news [Google’s purchase of YouTube] got me thinking about what Google mighta coulda bought with their money and didn’t, and I got to asking myself where the paradigm shift was in that. For instance, with that kind of dough, Google could have bought the New York Times Company… the decision to spend all this money on YouTube shows that the coffin nails of mainstream media are already strewn across the open grave.”
Mernit later adds:
“Even though YouTube has copyright issues to work out, and no established revenue model (yet), it’s the kind of social media platform that is quickly–for better or worse–claiming the attention of people who once turned to newspapers, cable TV and online news–just a few years ago–but who are now making user-generated content–and fan-uploaded music videos—a focus of their time. Further, after a year in operation, YouTube reportedly has 50MM users worldwide, while after 100+ years in operation, the NYTimes has.”
So wait, since when has the main audience for newspapers and online new (Ok, I’ll concede cable telly) been young people? And Mernit rightly points out that youtube has “copyright issues to work out, and no established revenue model”.
And there we have the truth of it all: the good people at YouTube realise that, as a youff thing, they can and probably will eventually be surpassed unsuspectingly by the next big thing. Audiences, especially young audiences, are nimble, fast moving, fickle, uninterested in loyalty when new trends are far more interesting. YouTube is happy to sell, in an all paper stock swap deal, to google because they might not be worth a thing in a few years – with those copyright issues and no establish revenue model – but at least google, good old google, is still going to have some stock value.
Unlike YouTube, The New York Times (and all the newspapers, radio and tv stations it owns), however, has an established brand, business, audience that is older and less fickle and more wise and far more loyal. It has longevity, it has staff, it has – for lack of better word – long standing momentum and earning potential. Can that all come to an end? Of course. I’m not suggesting the NY Times or any other paper will survive if it doesn’t embrace new technology and, in particular, become part of all the sharing, linking, and conversation spreading that is the web today. But I doubt, very very seriously doubt, that had Google made an offer to buy the NY Times, based on an all stock and no cash deal of a similar amount, that the NY Times would now belong to google. First off, the board of directors would probably reject it as a hostile takeover. Secondly, I’m guessing that a lot of the funds and individual investors in the NY Times are investors for exactly the same reason they wouldn’t go for a google buyout – they have invested specifically because the NY Times has longevity, because it isn’t the web, because every day they can open their mailbox or stop by the newsagent and find an actual thing, a product, a newspaper.
Let’s not hype the google buys youtube deal as a the whole world has changed, oh my god, it’s a new paradigm when the reality is so unmistakeably less interesting, and ultimately less life changing, than that. It’s no paradigm shift, it’s a big web based company (google) that’s likely to succede purchasing another (youtube) that, perhaps, despite it’s dramatic recent growth, may just not have long term confidence in itself to go it alone any more. And that makes sense. Big growth, afterall, is often times unstainable and in a fast paced trend oriented market, dominated by a fickle young demographic, can often actually inhibit later growth – anyone remember how uncool red leather Michael Jackson jackets and parachute pants were the next year?!
Google probably would have done well to buy the NY Times instead of YouTube, but they would have had to offer a much much sweeter deal than this to do it.