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Eric Schmidt talks about threats to Google, paywalls and the future
|06 июля 2010|
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says that the experience of reading news will move to digital devices quite rapidly – and that it will involve personalised and local news which will be alert to your interests and existing knowledge.
Speaking at the Activate 2010 summit held at the Guardian, Schmidt also warned that organisations should think of their mobile strategy ahead of their internet strategy – but that the two were intertwined so deeply that it was impossible to think of one without the other.
"The internet is the most disruptive technology in history, even more than something like electricity, because it replaces scarcity with abundance, so that any business built on scarcity is completely upturned as it arrives there," Schmidt said. "You have to plan your corporate strategy around what the internet does."
There are now three fundamental technology trends, he said: the growth of mobile internet connectivity, the growth of cloud computing and networking.
"Mobile is the hottest area of computer technology," Schmidt said. "The smartest developers now are writing apps for mobile before they write for Windows or Apple Mac desktop operating systems. Part of that is because these devices are hugely personal to us when we use them."
Asked what he thought of the future of newspapers, Schmidt said: "What does the newsreading experience look like many years from now? I think it's delivered to a digital device, which has text, obviously, but also colour, and video, and the ability to dig very deeply into what you are supplied with. At the moment we have readers, but it's not intelligent enough; newspapers often tell me what I already know. We'll have advertising products that are much more media-centric. The most important thing is that it will be more personalised."
But Schmidt refused to condemn paywalls, such as the Times's, which goes into operation from today – despite Rupert Murdoch having described Google as a "thief and a parasite" for its indexing operation of the Times site. Interviewed by Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, Schmidt said he had an "extremely good relationship" with Murdoch, head of News International, and that he had "not asked or expected" an apology for the description.
"At Google we want to offer every publisher pieces for you to do with as you see fit," he said. "Murdoch's comment was really about paywalls. There's a dispute in the [news] industry about subscriptions versus advertising. We want to enable both, and let users choose. But there are many publishers with large sites which have been offered the choice to go to a paywall, but don't, because they reckon they can make it work. Others want a subscription because that's the model they're used to."
But he said that newspapers faced real challenges because "they're replacing analogue dollars with digital cents, and a lot of people are losing their jobs as a result. It's much less bad here in Britain, perhaps because of the history of newspapers here, but in the US there are unhappy people who are losing audience at a faster and faster rate."
Instead, he said, organisations should build their strategies around the internet – and especially mobile. "The corollary of 'internet first' is 'mobile first'," he said.
But he said that the improved targeting of news and information, possibly with more personalised services, "opens fundamental questions: news will become more personal, because we will be reading what we know we're interested in. But is that too narrow? How does serendipity occur? Does that personalisation narrow our social view? If you follow the results of studies, it turns out that can lead to all sorts of biases. I don't know the answer, but to me this is a very fundamental question."
Asked what keeps him awake at night – and what will eventually kill Google – Schmidt, an industry veteran, replied: "Almost all deaths in the IT industry are self-inflicted. Large-scale companies make mistakes because they don't continue to innovate. For example, 'nowness' – real-time information – is a new concept that wasn't around when Google started, or even a few years ago. Now we integrate it into our searches.
"My fundamental fear about Google is that we have the same feature as other companies, which is that we lose that edge. If you lose that edge... But I think that will be a long, long time from now. External threats are likely to come from a truly innovative company that builds itself a big enough business quickly enough that we can't catch it. It's not different from other industries in that sense, except that in IT it happens so fast.
"The next great success will be built even faster than Google, and the one after that even faster. It's just how it is."