Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

There's a great article in the Sunday New York Times about whether Google is a friend or foe of media companies. The issue is Google's desire to sell advertising online for radio, newspapers and soon, television. Sounds like easy money and traditional media companies could use some of that these days. Google insists its a friend. I'm not so sure. Traditional media companies have set themselves up for Google's latest play. Newspapers have been dying off for years. Don't blame that one on Gen Y or the Internet. Papers have been trying to commit suicide by not adapting to new technologies and the needs of younger consumers. Radio has set itself up to be nothing more than a commodity traded and priced online by anyone simply because it selfishly pursued and won consolidation -- now it's Achilles' heel. Television, cable and satellite are at the early stages of being taken to the cleaners by short video (certainly Internet-delivered programming) because a few kids screwing around in a garage invented YouTube. Google knows what it's doing. Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer told BusinessWeek "The truth is, what Google is doing now is transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google." Radio can expect an assault. The Times article refers to Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt's plans to have up to 1,000 engineers and sales representatives working on the radio industry. By contrast the constantly downsizing radio industry hardly ever has a day without news of more layoffs. I'll bet radio hasn't collectively gained 1,000 new employees since consolidation began in 1996! You can't blame Google. They see opportunity. But you can hold radio, print and television accountable for helping to make their businesses the commodities that Google covets. To play on the old adage -- Beware of Geeks bearing gifts.