No Robert Young, Murdoch did not just KO Google

NewTeeVee contributor Robert Young wrote an interesting post yesterday positing that News Corp./NBC's video distribution plan could potentially disrupt Google's efficacy as a search engine.

If such a plan comes to fruition and media is distributed across Yahoo, MSN, MySpace and AOL, Young argues, then "Google would have no choice but to accept the demands of the big media companies for the licensing and distribution of their content. The only way for Google to regain leverage against the big media companies, at that point, would be to change the game altogether (e.g. by owning content and becoming a full-fledged media company, as I had suggested they might in my last post)."

You can break down his argument -- spread over post one and two -- in the list below. My comments inline.

  1. Google can crawl and index text ad infinitum with no copyright restrictions (at least in the U.S.)True. Google has benefited from a Web of text. But actually formulating the sentence that way (as Young does) puts the cart before the horse. A better way: The text Web has benefited from Google search. In the same way, the text+video Web (there will always be text on the Web, it's more efficient) will benefit from Google search.Google will get better at indexing video. Remember the Blogger acquisition in 2003? That acquisition helped GOOG understand conversation networks and index those conversations better. Result: A HUGE percentage of search referrals to blogs come from Google. Same dynamic will apply with video.
  2. They can't do the same with video. They have to get licensing agreements with media companies.False. Under current law, Google is allowed to post anything uploaded to its sites, even if that content is copyrighted, provided it removes the content after a DMCA takedown notice. Google is also allowed to post fair use snippets of video. Also: Viewers don't just seek out professional media content. User-generated content is important, too, and Google/YouTube is a primary destination for it. Also: Google's main search engine routinely indexes video from sites like iFilm, Metacafe, Atom Films, etc, and indexes the presence of those videos on blogs.
  3. News Corp./NBC's distro plan walls off content from Google and/or provides a better outlet for their work.Not necessarily. First, as stated above, Google can index the presence of video on competing video sites. Second, the News Corp./NBC plan is still only a plan -- you can't KO Google if you're not in the ring yet -- and there's little indication that the user experience will be a good one.Second, Google can index video on competing video sites. Video will always have metadata associated with it. Google will always be able to search that metadata, unless those companies "break the Internet" by not allowing Google to spider their content. That won't happen. Everyone wants traffic. Google is the biggest traffic driver. Not to mention, there's a complicated Web of partnerships to consider. It's not Google against the world.
  4. This weakens Google's bargaining position for licensing agreements.True, but not in the way you've posited. Google's position is weakened only in that GooTube will no longer be the largest distributor. But -- and this is important -- putting content on News Corp./NBC's distro doesn't mean you won't also put content on GooTube. It's not a zero sum game. What's more, you're discounting the user experience. Users may not want to watch long-form vids with advertisements on Myspace/AOL/Yahoo/MSN. They also may like YouTube's social features better.
  5. Google will thus find it convenient to buy programming directly from producers, much like TV networks do today.False, and good lord why would they? First, it would change their entire business model. Google makes money by understanding what people want, driving them to that content efficiently, and selling ads. Directly buying content would a) undermine Google's traffic agnostic position and b) introduce extreme inefficiencies.Currently, Google makes money no matter where traffic occurs on the Web. If they became a network, they would have to make a greater return on purchased content. That scales the wrong way. And, essentially, that means they'd have to become Yahoo. (sorry Lloyd Braun, I was rooting for you, but it didn't work out.) Networks make money by betting on what will be successful. Google makes money by not caring.
  6. And Murdoch, meanwhile, will own both the content (shows) and distribution (MySpace), the latter of which "ultimately become what YouTube was supposed to be."True and False. Murdoch will own the content and part of the distribution. MySpace, meanwhile, is a walled garden containing a factory of unneccesary clicks. YouTube, meanwhile, will continue to invest in the user experience and content agnosticism. That's another model that scales.

At the end of the day, all these discussions about Google beating media or media beating Google miss the point. Media is about telling stories. Google is about finding stories. These are two different businesses that compete marginally. Like a venn diagram, each needs the other to create the whole.

I'm sure I've missed some good points, and maybe you disagree. Please, tell me why I'm wrong in the comments.