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This month, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) will sponsor a two-story headquarters for bloggers at the Democratic National Convention here in Denver. It's planning a similar setup for the Republican convention in September.
Does anyone else find this fascinating? To me, we're watching a new-media mogul in the making. Traditional media outlets own permanent facilities, employ legions of reporters, and control the content. In fact, control is the key. News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) CEO Rupert Murdoch was frequently skewered for his reputation for editorial overbearance in the months before his firm completed a $5 billion bid for Dow Jones.
Contrast that with Google's plan. It's the George "yes, I will do opposite" Costanza model -- one that exerts little control over the medium and none over the message. Reporters? Who needs them? Or it would seem to Google, which is so disinterested in establishment thinking that it refuses to give Wall Street quarterly or annual earnings guidance.
At the DNC, Google's facilities will include room for roughly 500 bloggers, access to its software and services, and a kiosk in the main tent for posting YouTube videos, The Wall Street Journal reports.
How will DoubleGoo profit? Think of the ecosystem. A writer who uses Blogger, posts video on YouTube, and takes care to include popular search terms in his content will create value in two ways:
- AdSense. Google's ad-revenue sharing network doesn't make much, but it has thousands of users. Every blog post -- and you can bet there will be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands -- is an opportunity for DoubleGoo to earn pennies.
- AdWords. We know from Google that well-placed content in Google News leads to search revenue; $100 million worth at last count. Every lucid post and controversial YouTube video will draw searches. More searches equals more moola.
If it helps, think of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as the Trumps of the digital domain. They're building an empire of content, software, and services in the cloud; digital real estate monetized with ads.
Meanwhile, back in the newsroom...
How will traditional media profit? In spurts, as it always does. The major news dailies from Gannett (NYSE: GCI ) , New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) , and McClatchy (NYSE: MNI ) will produce special sections that will draw ads, as will some of their custom online content. Yet they face two limitations. First, Google will be serving some of their ads. Second, Big G's low-cost blogger army could be at least on par with their full-time staffs.
Similarly, CBS (NYSE: CBS ) , General Electric's (NYSE: GE ) NBC, and Murdoch's Fox News will have timeslots for DNC coverage that will be monetized with ads. But if history serves, we'll only be watching when the big speeches are given. And even then, most of the content will be stuff we've seen before, yawner after yawner.
Gootube could add spice to an otherwise bland setting. Vloggers will be giving us the view from the floor, as well as the gaffes and unintended "Macaca" moments -- stuff the networks will need to spice up their own coverage. What will they link to? YouTube. Once again, more searches equal more moola.
New media needs a new mogul
I'm not arguing that Google will replace traditional media outlets. There will always be a need for authoritative, in-depth coverage of major news events such as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
But if we're honest, we'll admit that what we really want is a return to the conventions of the 1950s and 60s, where floor frenzies were common. We want unfiltered content. We want what the networks won't provide, because they can't.
Thus, we need a new news mogul. One that thumbs its nose at Marshall McLuhan and eschews control over the medium and the message. We need Google and its blogger army, and we'll give our ad-viewing eyes to get it.
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