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Google and Health

By - September 13, 2007

Adam Bosworth leaving Google was interesting news, but somehow not surprising. I’m not sure why, but it struck me that Adam was never that engaged. He was the man behind much of Microsoft’s future OS plans, he came to Google, and then he ended up…working on Health? Seemed like a parking spot on the way out, in retrospect.

Now comes rumors that Google might buy WebMD. If I were writing two years ago, I’d say no way. Google isn’t in the content/customer service/editorial business. But now, well, I guess I could see it. Things have changed. YouTube was a major move to the “we’re a media company” hoop. Though it was entertaining to hear Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of ad consultancy Denuo, and David Lawee, VP of Marketing at Google, debate the issue on stage at the CM Summit yesterday (David insisted Google is a technology company, Rishad dismissed the claim with a flourish. Or two.)

So why not buy WebMD? The company can afford it. Microsoft bought Medstory. Google’s own plan for health, which Adam outlined to me months ago, is quite interesting, but might benefit from some built in content.

Strikes me, though, that in the end this would be a bad move. Why not just partner? And if you can’t partner, and feel like instead you have to buy, it might be time to step back and ask – what is it that makes you not able to partner? In the end, you can’t buy everything…


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7 thoughts on “Google and Health

  1. nmw says:

    Seems like Google might someday become a portal. ;D

    In recent months, I have been paying more and more attention to site search. And site search is a wonderful answer to “one size fits all search”. It will be interesting to see whether (and to what degree) there are similarities between searching for videos on youtube.COM and searching for health information on webmd.COM (I can’t say that I can think of any right off the bat, but perhaps there might be a good reason for merging the two together?)…

  2. nmw says:

    oh, and another thing I just remembered — this doc:

    “I have added my videos to youtube.com to help educate the widest possible public on these important matters.

    “But these videos have been rated as 18+, which is outrageous. I am asking you, my viewers, to join me in explaining to youtube.com why these life-saving videos should be made available to all. Follow the link below to add your voice to the campaign. It could help save lives! “

    http://www.thefamilygp.com/self_examination.aspx

    So maybe different sites need to differently configured after all (since their audiences are different communities, mobs, crowds or just plain different groups [or whatever]).

  3. Stone says:

    How can you say that Bosworth was never really into it? This sounds like revisionist history to pretty up a black eye. Adam Bosworth seemed VERY FOCUSED on health issues. My guess is that he knew the project was overly ambitious and bound to fail. That’s why I’d leave.

  4. Hashim Warren says:

    By purchasing WebMD Google would get a staff that has been thinking about health information on the web for years.

    Personally i am against the whole thing. I do not want the pharma industry to become better at pushing their drugs, online or off.

  5. stone says:

    Google’s been playing a game with Big Media for years now. They keep saying they’re a tech company while Big Media keeps ruminating about whether they’re friend or foe. Buying WebMD would put Google even closer to being a media company. They cannot afford to be so obvious so, for this reason, I doubt this happens. If it does happen the first thing Eric Schmidt does is talk in the press about how WebMD is a medical search/reference business, NOT a media company. These guys are very cunning and will always find a way to spin out of a jam.

  6. John Battelle says:

    It was clear Adam was passionate about health, stone, you are right. I just wonder, given his background, if he couldn’t find a toehold in what he gave the majority of his career to…

  7. Mike Mothner says:

    I also have the same question – I don’t see why Google would choose not to just partner with WebMD. If Google wants to maintain its status as a “technology company”, a move like buying WebMD would definitely negate this claim and push Google farther into the realm of being a media company. With the high risk of becoming labeled as a media company, I don’t see Google going through with this buy.