Pondering a new world


Is it a Brave New World for the media?  A couple of blog entries ago, I posted a link to an intriguing Web site essentially predicting the end of the MSM (mainstream media).  It predicts that two powerful online forces, Google and Amazon.com, will merge to form Googlezon, an omniscient organization that uses computer algorithms to search anything and everything, packages media content, and delivers personalized content to everyone using methods such as RSS.  With the advent of Googlezon and the dominance of the Internet in delivering news, traditional MSM operations such as the New York Times will go offline and become paper-based media that catering to those who prefer to read their news while drinking coffee (or Sprite).  It laments about the future of news content and delivery, implying that journalistic integrity will wither and people will engorge themselves on content limited to their own personal tastes.  Is the really future of MSM? 

No, it isn’t.  I thought the site gave an intriguing look into how online media could develop, and it was accurate in some respects.  Google is a force to be reckoned with.  However, the site missed out on some of the biggest technology advances in recent years.  One is podcasting.  Podcasting is a new phenomenon where people download audio content to listen to on portable media players such as iPods.  Podcasting is exploding online and is increasingly becoming a viable alternative to traditional radio and blogging.  Google and other search engines haven’t even begun to explore the potential for cataloguing podcasts.  Another is the eBay phenomenon.  eBay provides an alternative vision to Google’s.  Where Google seeks to universalize everything through its ubiquitous search engine, eBay creates personalized, online communities that connect people.  Amazon.com, an e-tailer, is often described as an anti-eBay.  That is, it finds users the best bargains through its search engine, A9.  Google essentially uses the same model as Amazon to search content.  eBay, Friendster, Tribe.net, Craigslist, GeoCities, and Overstock.com, etc. all reflect a community-based model contrary to Google’s open-end model.  Third, the site ignores another fast-growing media, satellite radio.  Sirius and XM are at the forefront of this fledgling industry that some say may one day rival traditional AM/FM radio.  Satellite radio is not even on the radar screen for a company like Google.

The most intriguing phenomenon we have not seen yet is the development of online news communities rivaling MSM outlets such as the New York Times or CNN.  Blogging is becoming an increasingly acceptable source for news, and although bloggers have begun collaborating and web sites such as Technorati have started cataloguing them, the eBayization of online news has not yet begun.  Bloggers are an eclectic bunch that cherishes independence.  The future of blogging however lies in the development of blogger communities governed by a set of journalistic rules that reach ever-large audiences.  This goes much farther than simply creating a blog listing.  Blog communities will become quasi-news organizations.  Wikipedia, an open source encyclopedia, reveals glimpses of this vision—blogger news organizations will consist of a worldwide group of accredited bloggers who collaborate as freelancers and deliver news in a coherent effort, much as programmers joined Mozilla to develop Firefox, an open-source Web browser.  I envision that in the future open-source online news organizations will develop to rival MSM, and they will not be undermined by the Googlization of the Internet.  They will be recognized as viable alternatives to news organizations such as the Associated Press and will not be beholdened to media moguls, shareholders, or political organizations.  They may lean politically liberal or conservative, but they will not function as a corporate or political entity.  This vision is much different than what the site I mentioned implies when it argues that Google will take over the media world.

Wade3016 wondered what will happen to Microsoft, at least according to this site.  Well, of course Microsoft, at least the content it provides through MSN (and possibly Friendster), will wither and die.  Googlezon will take over everything online.  I’m sure that won’t happen, although the rumor has been going around for years that the plug will be pulled on MSNBC because it can’t compete with Fox News and CNN.  Microsoft hasn’t excelled at online content like it has in other areas such as its operating system and productivity suites.  Google is fast becoming a formidable competitor to Microsoft online.  In many ways, Google is the antithesis of Microsoft, and it appears to be winning the online war on many of the fronts where it is competing Microsoft.  For example, the day MSN announced its beta search engine cataloguing 4 billion web pages, Google announced that it had catalogued 10 billion pages.  Not bad for a 7-year-old company.

I couldn’t resist ending this entry with some investment guidance.  Here are a few observations in case you’re thinking of investing based on this Brave New World.  If this is the world we face, you might as well make some money in the process.

  • Google’s stock price is at nose bleed prices.  Wait until it falls below $225/share to consider buying it.  I’m sold on Google’s future, but its price now is in a bubble while there’s speculation it will be added to the S&P 500.  Google’s move towards grid computing is revolutionary.  It will likely success where others such as Sun Microsystems failed.  For example, why use a mail client on your PC when your Gmail account stores 2GB of messages and has a comprehensive search engine?  And if you do, why not try the free E-mail companion for Firefox, Google’s Web browser of choice?  I believe Google will continue to move toward platform-less computing and will be much more than a search company in the future. 
  • Do not buy TiVo on speculation Google will buy it.  TiVo’s price reflects this spectulation.  TiVo doesn’t fit Google’s open-source model well because it is just one standard in set-top boxes.
  • Consider buying Amazon if you think Google and Amazon will merge.  Amazon’s price is stable and the stock is stale because the dot.com glory days are over.  I doubt that they will merge.  Amazon is an e-tailer.  Google is a technology company.  If anything, it is in Google’s interest to buy A9 or sell Amazon on the benefits of using its search engine over Amazon’s A9.
  • Microsoft’s stock price moves glacially.  The company is too big now to be a hot buy.  Microsoft might buy Friendster, but more likely they will build something home grown like they did with MSN Spaces.
  • Electronic paper developed by Sony will not eclipse traditional paper anytime soon.  Google is digitizing entire libraries, but it is running into copyright issues and will only digitalize a miniscule portion of all available literature.  Besides, anytime Sony develops anything cool they make it proprietary and kill the idea.  Remember Betamax?  You may actually see a standards issue when it comes to digital paper.
  • Don’t bet on NYTimes.com going away anytime soon.  As Wade3016 mentioned, if not the New York Times, other papers such as the Seattle Times will happily stay online.  They may be Googlized, but they won’t go away.  The MSM is here to stay.
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