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NYT, Wired Weighs In

By - February 22, 2004

As predicted, the big boys have turned their attention to the Yahoo-Google story. The NYT has a piece today (I’m quoted, I’m quite sure it’s one of the few times “full-tilt boogie” has made it into a business story) giving an overview of the Yahoo side, and Wired, in a cover package, pretty much runs what’s left of the Google story into the ground.

Now, I’m not going to spend *too* much time on this, but I did give the Wired package, which runs 15 pages – an eternity for most magazines – a hard read over the weekend. It fails on all kinds of levels. (When they post it, the package will be here.) And yet, it succeeded on the meta level, which is to say: Google *is* a huge story in the Wired space, and should be treated as such.

(more in extended entry below)

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The Wired piece (it’s the April issue) was clearly a concept play, driven, it seems, by an editorial meeting where someone said – “Hmmm…April. What’s happening in April?” …and someone else said “That’s when Google is supposed to go public.”
Response: “Well then let’s get a story on that!”
“Well, they aren’t talking to anyone.”
“Ummm…OK, how can we do it anyway?”

The result is this package. The cover features a tricolor (yes, red, blue, green) lithographic treatment of Larry and Sergey, with the one word proclamation “Googlemania!” Not exactly advancing the story, nor giving us the wonderful concept covers Wired often does so well. The cover and table of contents promises all sorts of insights into the pre-IPO Google, but in fact, delivers none. Instead we get a generalized essay about what it’s like to be in a white-hot Valley company before an IPO – not Google, mind you, but we do get to hear from various entrepreneurs who’ve been there. OK, but…not exactly what we were looking for, or what we felt was promised to us. The package then goes on to introduce us to a search engine optimizer (Bruce Clay, for those keeping score), a runner who uses Google in some inexplicable way to train better, an entire page of Peter Norvig’s head (I mean, I like him, but…). There’s an essay on how Google and Microsoft are now competitors (nothing new), a spread on how AdWords works (again nothing new), a two-page spread with the Google interface re-imagined by various au courant designers (ranging from silly to simply masturbatory), and some other random stuff, including a bunch of “Google is super-bitchin” quotes from luminaries. Sigh. It’s all so…2002.

The best stuff was an essay on comment spam from the wonderful Steven Johnson, and a page on “four scenarios for the future,” the only place I found any thinking on what might come next (and not that original – Google becomes either Microsoft, Yahoo, Netscape, or eBay). To my mind, the whole thing should have been about where things are going and what it all means (Wired’s mission is usually to scout the future and report back…). But instead, just four paragraphs, four boxes of text, and none of them in any way thinking about the larger issues Google represents.

So why am I so on about this? Because Wired has been getting better and better lately, and I’m disappointed by this effort. The magazine should be moving this story forward, like it did a year ago January. Instead, the package they put together was so cursory, so void of deeper thinking, so clearly positioned to time a potential news event, that the whole damn thing could have run in Cosmo. Or, put another way, while reading, I had an odd sense I had already seen just about everything in the package somewhere else before in the past few months. But where? Ah yes…I think it was the New York Times.

(caveat: I was a founding editor of Wired).

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One thought on “NYT, Wired Weighs In

  1. seo blog says:

    I remember this way back. Got really disappointed too.