A friend sent me this about Ken Auletta’s new book about Google:
Many books have been written about Google, even though we’re all pretty familiar with the company to begin with, but what makes Ken Auletta’s Googled interesting is that it’s a history of the company as told by the incumbent sociopaths. These are the people Auletta has spent his life covering: the media moguls who tried to acquire and conquer their own empires of content and delivery. And to them what’s most shocking and galling about Google’s incredibly rapid rise is that instead of being engineered by a fellow sociopath, it was largely done by normal, decent people plainly applying the forces of new technology.
“What has Google ever done for the world?” ask the sociopaths at various points throughout the book. “All they do is steal other people’s content!” To a normal human the question is ridiculous — it’s almost impossible to imagine life without Googling for something, checking your Gmail, or watching videos on YouTube — but sociopaths aren’t used to doing things that create value for people. They’re just interested in conquering more and taking control. When Disney bought ABC for $19 billion, it didn’t improve most people’s lives in any real way, but it did let Michael Eisner regain control of the company he once ran.
So naturally the sociopaths are outraged that their control is being taken away. Newspapers, book publishers, television companies, ad agencies — their businesses are all failing, while Google’s is on the rise. The sociopaths may be outraged, but this is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Most people don’t have a vested interest in whether ABC does well or even continues to exist. What they want are good television shows at a reasonable price, and if they can get those from Apple and Google instead of their local cable company, then bully for Apple and Google.
I’m sure it’s possible to lay it on too thick about how great google is and what great guys the founders are and so on, and perhaps this piece does this. But having just read an article about Rupert Murdoch, I was struck by the differences:
Murdoch’s son-in-law Matthew Freud—married to Elisabeth Murdoch, and one of the most well-known P.R. men in the U.K.—explained to me what he believes is the essence of Murdoch’s approach to business: Murdoch is not a modern marketer. He runs his business not on the basis of giving the consumer what he wants but through more old-fashioned methods of structural market domination. His world, and training ground, is the world of the newspaper war—a zero-sum game, where you wrestle market share from the other guy. Curiously, his newspaper battles have most often involved cutting prices rather than, as he now proposes to do on the Internet, raising them. (Murdoch has contributed as much as anyone, with his low-priced papers, to the expectation that news is a de-valued commodity.)
I don’t know who or when this happens, but it seems the lesson “greed is good” was so thoroughly internalized by much of the media that monopolists like Murdoch (and even outright crooks) are now lionized. Whether they create a product that people like and want or just find some way of ripping people off doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re worth a lot of money.