Fortune this week proves that the worm can turn in the mainstream media’s coverage of all stories, even one that for years has proven my predictions wrong. At least 18 months ago I was cluck-clucking to the communications honchos at Google that they should “beware the backlash.” They were getting too much good press, and at some point the media always wakes up and eats its young. But Google enjoyed the longest free ride I’ve seen in recent history – even when those same PR honchos essentially went dark and refused to give anyone much access. The same story kept getting written, again, and again, and again….
This Fortune piece isn’t a hit, but it does rehash the negative bits with at least as much ardor as the positive ones. The piece sets up like this: At Fortune we did some *real* reporting (the implication being that all the stories before were stage managed affairs), and we found out that the company that everyone’s been lauding for the past three years is…complicated, contradictory, and not exactly perfect. Not a rocket science conclusion, but it manages to make the company seem a bit more human. The piece states some very old stuff as fresh (that the company has recently grown arrogant – this is new?), has tidbits of news known only to a very few insiders (that Bill Joy and Google flirted but eventually did not come to terms), and a couple off the record sources who are also investors saying stuff like: “Google has a lot of momentum, but its current position is probably not defensible.” (Yahoo holds 5% of Google…).
The piece is a fine round up of where things stand, but I can’t help feeling a bit empty – so much of the story was stuff we already knew, but had to be in there because of Fortune’s large readership, not all of which could be assumed to be avid followers of all things Google. That’s the problem with mainstream media coverage – it has to speak to everyone. The story lacked an analysis of business models, of the industry, and any deep discussion of the larger phenomenon Google represents. And the negative bits, while something of a first, had a twinge of gossip and/or sour grapes to them. Overall, I’m not sure this piece moved my view of Google one way or another. How about you all?