My first proper job was as a reporter for a start-up indie newspaper in the north western suburbs of Sydney. The editor was an awesome guy called Peter Gladwell; he hired me because he had a fire in his eyes and I think he saw a bit of that in me too. He wanted to bring credible, interesting, ballsy journalism back to suburban newspapers and I wanted to write credible, interesting, ballsy suburban journalism. The paper was called the Northwest Edge and it was brilliant. I think it lasted five issues.
When Fairfax and News Corp got wind of what this little start-up was doing they slashed their advertising rates and undercut the market. A little indie newspaper stood no chance against two giant media corporations and that was that. I looked Peter up on LinkedIn and he now appears to be Chief of Staff at Fairfax, which is kind of ironic. I’m sure he’s getting his own back, one stolen paperclip at a time.
The Northwest Edge is a David and Goliath story. There are lots of them in the media, and sadly, Goliath usually wins. What happens though, when Goliath fights Goliath? Google is the biggest giant standing in the current media landscape and they’ve put numerous companies out of business by not just undercutting the market, but literally giving away products and services other companies were charging a mint for. Imagine if you’d invested millions of dollars into any of the following services in the last decade with the hope of making money from them:
- A Blog Service
- A Website Where People Can Share Videos
- Website Traffic Analytics
- Satellite Imagery
You’ve now either been bought by Google, or you’ve been put out of business (or you will be soon).
Google has avoided producing ‘content’ of it’s own so far, with the exception of mapping data, but before long their share price will level off and investors will start demanding further diversification. The Google search brand is so well established that it won’t be tarnished or have its power diluted by adding more complimentary services. There is absolutely no reason why Google cannot feasibly, tomorrow, muscle in on the real estate, jobs and classifieds markets. There is no reason why they can’t produce their own accommodation search engine. What exactly will RealEstate.com, Seek, CarSales.com.au and Stayz do if when a major player like Google comes along and makes their product free. When was the last time anyone used WhereIs? (A site that just launched a popup ad in my browser, little fuckers). Does anyone really think that MySpace and Facebook are going to remain dominant for more than a few more years?
(Almost) everything online will soon be free. If I was shareholder in of any of those fore-mentioned companies, I’d be cashing out now.