7 Things Google CEO Eric Schmidt Thinks Publishers Should Know
Google CEO Eric Schmidt had a bevy of insight to offer publishers at the Association of Magazine Media Conference on Wednesday. Some of the headline grabbers today reported that the search engine head honcho had professed from the mountaintops: The future of magazines is on tablets! If that was all publishers got from it, they would have missed the point. Deftly interviewed by Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich, Schmidt's insight was a tapas-style nibblefest of knowledge regarding the state and future of technology and media. Here's what he served up:
The Potential Audience for Publishers Will Explode
"The evidence is that another 5 billion people will join us online," says Schmidt. Internet penetration will grow as smartphones find their way into the hands of people in developing regions. Schmidt calls this adoption "life-changing." It means access to information, safety, entertainment, and of course, for publishers, the potential for more media consumers. Through Google Fiber and the Android OS, Google plans to be a part of the new connected age, says Schmidt.
Media Consumers Will Be More Intelligent
Schmidt says that the personal empowerment that mobile devices promise is immense: "Everyone is getting supercomputers in their hands. This was not anticipated. Consumers of magazines will be sharper. It forces everyone to play at a higher-level game."
Magazines Will Be On Tablets
"Magazines are most likely going to be read on tablets...tablets are going to replace the PC," says Schmidt. The many possibilities tablets offer users over print will tip the scale, from GPS tools, to video, to social graphing. "It should be positive for the industry-allowing for more targeted ads, which generate more money."
Apps Will Live Inside Chrome
No surprise this is the hope Google has for its browser, playing off its cloud computing capabilities and mostly open platform. In turn, Schmidt hopes that Chrome will be the future home for magazine apps.
The Power of Free Is Here To Stay
When asked whether the Spotify business model might be an indication of what the future holds for magazine publishers, Schmidt avoided answering in the affirmative. But it sounds like he wanted to. "Jeff Bezos realized you could create a virtual bookstore that's bigger than a physical bookstore," says Schmidt. Spotify is a virtual radio station bigger than any physical music collection. "The question of how you monetize it will be decided by the market," says Schmidt. "Eventually free television had more viewers than paid television. Ultimately you'll have more readers if you have free content and advertisers as subsidizers."
Search for Magic
While Schmidt sees "good judgment" as the value that editors currently provide, bringing to the surface "things that I would have otherwise not found," he says this kind of serendipitous discovery can be programed pretty well based on what someone is reading and his social connections. However, the "true one-offs" are what content producers should concentrate on. Right now he sees a strong "follower effect" where everyone swarms around the same topic and reports it to death. "Finding something unique and different is what's important. That's a truly amazing human talent...the search for that magic."
Bifurcation Is Mostly Bad
About 10 years ago Google experimented with a more federated company, opening more and more offices away from its HQ. It has since retrenched on that, says Schmidt, because it wasn't working. "The lesson we learned is that you have to have a certain concentration for the magic to work. My guess is if you're doing tech work, you should probably end up doing it where there are other people doing it or your competitors."
Wired's Scott Dadich noted that some publishers maintain separate divisions for print and digital and wondered whether this is a good idea. Schmidt says that Google has plenty of extremely technical product scientists, but that ultimately there is a single person that knows everything that's going on to make the pieces fit together.
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.