Business Today

'The biggest tragedy will be if great content is created but it cannot be found'

In a freewheeling chat, Nikesh Arora explains what Google really stands for, whether it’s feeding on profits of other businesses and why he loves being a Googler.

Rohit Saran, Kushan Mitra and Shankkar Aiyar         Print Edition: September 6, 2009

In a freewheeling chat, Nikesh Arora explains what Google really stands for, whether it’s feeding on profits of other businesses and why he loves being a Googler. Excerpts:

GOOGLE AS DISRUPTOR OF CONVENTIONAL BUSINESS

People look at Google as the Tom Sawyer of business. You get to eat the apple when somebody is painting the fence. Your revenue is driven by content that is free.
I don’t think that is a fair characterisation. Think about this: About four exabytes of data (an exabyte is one billion GB or roughly 40,000 days of video programming) was created prior to 2005. Last year, that number was 270 times that. The point is that a majority of the world’s information is coming in digital form. Now, there are people who develop the content, people who create the content, and then there are people who help other people find it.

...That’s where Google comes in?
Yes. What’s a music company? A music company doesn’t sing. It finds a talent and makes it accessible around the world. What are broadcasters? They collect other peoples’ content and enable people to access it. Are they adding value in the process? Yes, they are. I think the biggest tragedy will be if great content is created but it cannot be found.

Are you conceptually challenging the existing media?
Conceptually, the Internet is challenging the media. It is forcing us to rethink traditional media models. That will happen with or without Google in the mix. If we didn’t exist tomorrow that won’t mean people are not going to post videos online or watch content online. There are other search engines. I don’t think the fundamental behaviour of users changes whether Google is in the mix or not.

You can look at us as an accelerator or enabler. So with Google News, we are helping people find news. There are many newspapers who come to us and say “Thank you very much, I find 10-20 per cent of my traffic from Google News”. Google doesn’t make any money on this. It sends the people back to your website. Google increases the discoverability of your content. You make mental transition from “Oh ****, the world is changing, my business model is challenged” to “Wow, my business is benefiting because I can do this much more cheaply and efficiently”, you go from “Oh ****! Google is bad” to “Google can help me!”

After print and music, Internet — or somebody may say Google, through YouTube — is challenging television now...
I don’t think the video industry will make the same mistakes as the music industry. It will make new ones. Even today, if you want to release a video globally you need to get permissions from hundreds of different publishing authorities and it is still a quagmire…

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