The duck-billed google

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Tangelos. The duck-billed platypus. Skorts. There are some things in this life that exist due to an odd set of environmental circumstances. And while today we accept each for face value, this was not always true. The platypus, for example, was first met with distrust. After all, no one had ever seen such a thing.

It looks like Google is getting the same treatment as it defies traditional media definitions.

This past weekend, Richard Siklos of The New York Times posed a question that many of us have been asking ourselves for the past few years: Is Google a friend or foe? The answer, of course, depends upon who you are and how you make your money in the media ecosystem.

Simply put, a medium is a means of carrying information. And while the definition does not require that the medium also create the content, the legacy of 20th century advertising tells us that there are three accepted players:

  • Publishers that attract an audience by creating valuable content
  • Brands that wish to be in front of said audience
  • Agencies that make the match through advertising campaigns and media buys

When Google first entered the advertising game, it was overlooked. We had just come out of dot-bomb, and no one in their right mind was willing to risk a marketing budget on interactive. Early adopters, however, realized that search engine marketing paid off - and well. Why? Because searchers knew exactly what they wanted. And there were a lot of searchers.

As advertisers and searchers symbiotically flocked to Google, the engine gained control over an increasing number of marketing dollars that were previously spent on print, radio or television. While this sends traditional ad sales teams into fits, chances are the online team of a publication is quite content to receive qualified visitors from a Google search. We now have a duck-billed Google.

To further complicate the matter, Google's acknowledgement that online video, radio and now newspaper advertising will be a part of the near future puts yet another member of the ecosystem at risk: the agency. The suggestion that the engine is revamping its account team to sell all of the above to its top accounts puts traditional agencies at a serious disadvantage.

Suddenly it is clear that we spent much of the 20th century building an advertising and media machine that is now obsolete. Even the definition of the world "media" is outdated. Those concerned should spend less time pondering whether Google is indeed a media company and more time learning how not to be stung by the spur on the hind foot of the platypus.
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