Jeff Jarvits explains how Google is so successful by:
1. being free
2. acting fast
3. allowing customers to decide (thereby eliminating the third party or agent)
4. providing the most prevalent links based on their ranking ("Googlejuice")
The author gives numerous examples of successful companies which employ similar tactics such as etsy, craigslist, and Amazon. He describes various reasons why these tactics work.
The author certainly elaborates on enough strategies that make Google and others like Google online successes; however, the text drags on endlessly and in a somewhat unorganized fashion that I felt he was verbally vomiting. It was like reading an endless blog instead of a book. If found myself repeatedly asking these two questions:
1. What did I just read?
2. What information did I get out of reading this?
In summary, a person who is thinking of embarking on a net presence will probably find that there's enough material in this book to guide them into doing what Google does. However, since the text rambles on, that person will have to jot down important details as he or she reads in order to remember it. If the book were better organized, more concise and definitive in its evaluation of what Google and others like Google do, and had a clearer table of contents (chapter headings), I would have rated it four stars.
on February 2, 2009
What would Google do if it were writing books on business? Probably not write a book like this one. Most business books, like most Saturday Night Live skits, have a nut that's worth a couple minutes of air at most that are dragged out into an interminable pileup. To be sure, there are some interesting and illuminating ideas that Jarvis presents here, but they don't merit 200 pages.
Jarvis seeks to show how Google is the Future, but this gets lost in all his self-promotion and name dropping about his Davos luncheons. Not all of that is bad; his own struggle to get a laptop that works (and the ensuing, minor media racket he was able to generate) provide some good fodder for business and life lessons. One of which ("...your customer is your brand") is even quite profound.
But there is always a but. To get to these nuggets, you have to bushwhack through Jarvis' prose tic of coining absurd neologisms ("Googlethink", "Googlejuice", more and worse to come) and his inane triumphalism. In the introduction, Jarvis sets this tone by writing "We begin by examining the new power structure of the economy and society, where we, the people, are suddenly in charge--empowered by Google".
On the face of it alone, this notion is outrageous. Our Ourubian economy's slide is nothing less than a ratification of "old power structures" at work, regardless of where you're sitting. Even if you're at lunch with Jarvis at Davos.
Jarvis has the stuff in here to have written a short book about Google, without the silly, technorati zeal ("At Google, we are God and our data is the Bible...") and the reliance on old, worn out cliches about how Google's dominance presages "Geeks...coming to rule the culture" which constantly undercut Jarvis' allegations of "old models" being upturned. If you speak in the language of "ruling culture", after all, then you're not promoting upheaval or betterment, but just a new set of codgers at the helm. Thus, as always in a revolution: the wheel turns and you wind up exactly where you started.
You can read this book. It won't make you a better person, and it won't harm you, either.
on February 6, 2009
It never fails that the latest hot company becomes the model for how all businesses should be run. Unfortunately, Jarvis' book is no exception. He takes a down industry (U.S. car companies) and compares it with one of the company's most successful (Google). Apples and oranges. He asserts that Google's openness is the fix for the problems with automobile industry.
First, let's be clear. Google is not open by any stretch of the imagination. You can't get a 2-3 year view into their product roadmap. Google's data centers are top secret. If they're so open, why not let people tour them like Miller does its breweries or Boeing it airplane manufacturing plant? I, for one, would love to tour their facility. It'd be fascinating (geeks rule!). Second, Google doesn't implement everything its users want. GMail users have asked for custom folders to organize their email but instead get categories. Why isn't the customer's feedback taken into consideration? Every other mail provider allows for this. Lastly, their beta programs never seem to end. Beta programs, by definition, let users give feedback but they're also unsupported. "We lost your mail? Sorry, that's a beta." If the folks in Detroit rolled all of their cars off of the assembly line with a "beta" lable people could be killed. Thanks, but no thanks. Some of the cars coming from Detroit may not be award-winning but at least they are well tested and safe.
Certainly, the automobile manufacturers as well as all industries could benefit from the feedback loop that instrumentation allows. Unfortunately, they don't have the connectivity to each car that Google and other high tech companies are beneficiaries. Google knows where people click, how long they stay on a page, etc. That's because everyone who does a search "phones home" to their servers. This gives them tremendous insight just like it does Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM, etc. I have high confidence that GM would benefit if every time you turned on your headlights that data was caputure in their Detroit office.
Jarvis is another author riding the wave of a company's success. You don't need to buy this book. Just wait a few years and see if Google 2020 is as great as it was as Google 2009. Saddle Google with the U.S. automobile companies pension issues and I don't think this book would ever be published.
Google is an impressive company, with a 71% market-share of U.S. Internet searches in 2008, and 87% in the U.K. Does that make it's approach a "cure-all?" Should President Obama, and the chiefs of U.S. Airways, G.E., the New York Yankees, Governor Palin, etc. simply call up Google's leaders for advice?
Before answering, read on. "Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success - openness is." Oh, oh - sounds like Enron a few years ago. [...] Then, its "middlemen are doomed" - tell that to a truck driver taking load after load to warehouses. (Yes, I know the Internet will force real estate agents to greatly cut their commissions, but it won't eliminate them. Somebody has to verify a home's specifics, the financing, etc.)
Jarvis then forecasts the demise of newspapers and praises the benefit to the environment. But, as Nicholas Carr points out in "The Big Switch," we'll probably end up with fewer articles on government (corruption, achievements), resurgence of malaria in Africa, etc. because there's no natural advertising link to such content, and readers will become more and more polarized as they pursue affinity groups.
Jarvis extols his own experience blogging about poor Dell service, and their subsequent improvements - almost a year later. He then forecasts companies (eg. BMW) using eg. Facebook groups to help design new cars. Again, perhaps - but what about the bias contributed by those using Facebook, and the fact that some companies dislike "focus groups" because they're easily dominated by the most vocal, and generally have poor future-vision?
As for getting rich blogging - Technorati estimates the average haul for bloggers with advertisements at [...], a Newsweek blogger reports 1.5 million people visiting his site in a month (a very impressive number), for which he earned a whopping total of [...] (no so impressive).
Bottom Line: WWGD demonstrates one of the major problems with reading bloggers, like Jarvis. There's no quality control - you could easily end up reading nonsense!
on January 23, 2009
I did not like this book. Yep. It's actually less than OK and I have a distinct aversion toward it. Thus, it earned a 2-star rating from me. In my humble opinion, this book is poorly organized and poorly written. In fact, even as I write this review, I have yet to figure out what organization it has. As I read it I felt like it just kept meandering and babbling with no message, no point, no content of real value.
The title of the book probably would have been just as appropriate if it has been "WWGD?" instead of the search engine optimized verion "What Would Google Do?" And if the author got paid as much as he boasts for writing this book at page 56, then the publishers really got conned. I cannot imagine this book being a bestseller. And if it ultimately is, then I have to laugh heartily at the publishing system that exists today.
The author is a trained journalist who covered New Media stories in business, then started a blog, got cozy with venture capital firms apparently, quit his journalist job, became a CUNY graduate school professor where he collects $100K a year in salary supplemented by consulting and speaking gigs that gets him another $200K a year in revenues. Nowhere in that resume is there any training in business or experience running a company. And thus, we have a self-appointed expert on business telling us about what Google would do if it were YOU. What a joke!
Google is a new media company. It is huge, very good at what it does, and what it provides is in high demand. Its business model is one that relies on revenue streams generated by advertising dollars. Newspapers, magazines, professional sports teams, film producers, and TV stations all create entertainment of some sort or another. What they do rarely creates sizeable revenue streams directly. Only the indirect revenue streams gained through advertisers support the business model. Are most companies set up like this? Can most companies bend their business models to work this way? The proper answer is: NO. And as a result, this book is a bunch of bunk.
At page 31 the author talks about "revenue models." Anybody in business knows there is no such thing. There are business models, and they have revenue streams, but streams are not models - they are just streams (or rivers in the case of Google). And at page 52 the author says "organization is a business model." No. No. No. Organization is merely a way of doing business, but it is not a business model. Business models are profit models. Revenues in must exceed expenses and costs out. And the revenue streams come from selling product, providing service, or advertising.
I think the crux of the book is summed up at page 47. What would Google do? Well, just get lucky, very lucky. 2 stars!
PS. I have read the other three book reviews previously posted for this book. I usually don't read reviews to learn anything, but since I had such a problem figuring out what the purpose of this book was I felt I would check to see if the other reviewers could help me comprehend (see the light). Unfortunately, the other reviews I found to either be babble delievered much like what was in the book - or a verification that the book was mere babble. Oh yeah, I think the book would have been better if the title were changed to "What Would Jarvis Do?" since he's the one laughing all the way to the bank. Not many people in America command $300K a year in compensation.
The new publishing gold rush seems to be to pseudo-scientific books that "simplify" complex subjects. Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail" which tries to mate the Paretto Principal with the bell curve to form a new marketing paradigm and Malcom Gladwell's simplistic deductions so masterfully skewered in Judge Posner's review of Gladwell.
Jeff Jarvis joins the parade and now suggests that if only you managed like Google, you too would be a billionaire or, as Jarvis explains on page 57, at least approaching millionaire status like he is. What Jarvis misses, for the most part, is that he, like Google, got lucky when his complaints against Dell got noticed. Thousands of others had justifiably harpooned Dell on the web, but Jarvis got lucky and got the publicity and with it a dramatic upturn in his personal fortunes.
Like many, Jarvis is ignorant of history and thus mistakes acceleration for invention. Jarvis claims "Google is our model for thinking in new ways because it is so singularly successful". Uh, Jeff, remember when they used to say that about Apple? IBM? HP? AOL? Netscape? They were all "singularly successful" once - and have fallen from their lofty perches, just as Google will. Thus, the rocketing metaphor is an old device: sell a miracle cure based on the current darling of the headlines.
Jarvis believes that people have never held any power in the marketplace. It is the internet, according to Jarvis and other cheerleaders, that empowers people to affect manufacturers and producers for the first time. This is pure silliness. Anyone who remembers the pre-Internet days when the Edsel and New Coke failed - along with thousands of other products every year because the public voted with their dollars. Jarvis also appears blissfully ignorant of how public sentiment forced the implementation of child labor, anti-trust, consumer safety and thousands of other laws.
Access to information may accelerate the impact of consumers on manufacturers and producers, but it is not the invention of the phenomena.
Jarvis explodes with frighteningly broad generalizations. In a chapter on restaurants run on Googlethink, the eateries are implored to get more and more data on their customers. "The more layers of data you have, the more you learn . . . People who like this also like that". Uh, Jarvis doesn't get the fact that many restaurants and fast food places have no desire - and no need - to expand their menus. If you make the best pizza in the area, there's little reason and lots of danger in expanding into fancy deserts. It's simple for folks like Jarvis and Chris Anderson to postulate this silliness without having any experience in the businesses they are talking about.
In another example of Jarvis's disconnection with reality, he cites "[m]y wife and I sometimes ask our supermarket to stock a product, but that's a rare encounter with spotty results. Shouldn't the store have forums where customers could ask for products and managers could see when those requests reach critical mass"? Say, Jeff, ever hear of Wal-Mart? One of Sam Walton's enduring innovations was listening to customers and allowing store managers to stock what their specific locality desires.
Ultimately, "What Would Google Do?" is a the personal rant of Jeff Jarvis. In far too many ways, it is an uniformed rant displaying a massive ignorance of history.
Is it worth reading? In a small way, yes, in the same manner that a conversation with anyone has the potential to illuminate, inform and expand your own thinking. Is it a great, groundbreaking book? No. You can live without it.
on January 18, 2010
If you think Tom Friedman's a genius, then you'll love "What Would Google Do?"
I had hopes for this book. I'm curious about the success of network media and I'm always looking for ways to apply it to my life. The search continues.
Like Friedman, Jarvis is a shameless namedropper. That's somewhat acceptable, since this is the business of networking, so who you know and who knows you is the value-added product being marketed. Wait, that's a much better thesis than anything Jarvis offers.
I could only get through two chapters before putting the book down. If there was something profound after that point, I preemptively apologize. Nonetheless, in those two chapters Jarvis uses some of the most vapid English phrases I've read in a while (and I work in politics). For example, "Once upon a time, all roads led to Rome. Today all roads lead from Google." Perhaps this is beyond the capacity of a business journalist but those describe IDENTICAL not CONTRARY networks, namely a spoke-and-hub network. Or, try this: "The link and the search started a revolution, and the revolution had only just begun." That sentence is somehow both verbose and repetitive. My personal favorite was, "Google is the U.S. Steel of our age."
Perhaps Jarvis just finds great inspiration in Google's successful business model. That's understandable. In terms of brand strength, Google indeed is the U.S. Steel of our age, or ALCOA, or Sears Roebuck. But I sense that Jarvis is not fully disclosing his relationship to the object of his adoration. At several points he mentions that he was involved in a few ventures that somehow found themselves engoogled. Again, this is not unreasonable. Google's big. But what I find offensive are the well-timed omissions. Consider this passage
"My business partner, Peter Hauck, and I used this platform to build the blog Prezvid.com, which covered the 2008 U.S. presidential election through the eys of YouTube. Google made it possible for us to create new content around its videos--promoting them--and we created a business by syndicating that content to WashingtonPost.com and CBSNews.com."
Wow! That's pretty amazing. Of course, Jarvis is a prominent journalist so getting his YouTube mashups syndicated on two major media outlets likely had more to do with his personal connections than any genius of Google. Such an arrangement is pure networking, which is what his book is ostensibly about, but it does not jive with Jarvis' message about the democratization of information. It reeks of old media.
This sort of ludicrousness is ultimately what led me to put the book down (although the hackneyed prose didn't help). There's nothing in this book that you can't deduce from a half an hour of googling and notetaking. Save yourself the money and the time.
on February 28, 2009
Books like What would Google Do? frustrate me. They are contradictions.
Take an author, in this case Jeff Jarvis. He models a new world. In this case, the world created by Google. He, with his unpaid internet collaborators, develops 40 rules for operating in this new world. Then, because he does not like the fact that the new rules will not pay him, he returns to the old world rules to ring the register.
You could not make up this scenario. Yet, it is accurate rendition of the promises and perils of the "New Google Age." Viewers do not want to pay for content. They expect it for free. I have always hated the term "freelancer." I would politely remind clients what I do is not "free." On the contrary, my service is very expensive. It took me time, money and lots of sweat to develop my domain knowledge. In the "New Google Age", however, it is indeed free. In the last decade we have chosen to turn our backs on centuries of Intellectual Property law, tradition and practice.
Jarvis understands my frustration. He came up with a great idea: a blog chronicling the rise of Google, the fastest growing company in history. Smart people helped him develop those ideas by freely posting their insights. Volumes of research demonstrate this is the most effective way to develop an idea. Yet, when Jarvis cannot monetize his site, where does he turn? You guessed it. To the very "old media" he devotes countless pages of his book pronouncing dead. To his credit the author sheepishly admits this contradiction somewhere in the back pages of his treatise.
I read every page of the book. The 40 rules are consumer driven and solid, but the author fails to answer this "New Google Age's" deepest question: how do we compensate the content creator? If Jarvis's actions with this book are a model, then the "New Google Age" requires serious revision.
on March 4, 2009
Jeff Jarvis is obviously in love with Google and all things Google. In fact, in the world according to Jeff Jarvis we would all do well to discard every and all business models and follow, lock-step in the Google mode.
In short, this is one long love letter to Google. If Google were a human being, Jeff Jarvis would be the stalker.
While there are many things that Google does right and can be both helpful and beneficial to mankind, there are many areas in which it needs to improve or, at least, be more respectful. However, in this book, Google can do no wrong.
Worried about your privacy? Pshaw. Google just needs all that information about you in order to organize itself better to serve up more relevant results for you. Tired of seeing ads everywhere? Hey, that's how Google can give you what it does for "free" (and provide some income for the masses who serve up their ads).
It's well written and simple to follow. As long as you know you're reading fawning hype for Google, you'll be OK.
I had high hopes for this book, but by the time I had finished it I wondered what new thing Jeff Jarvis had brought to the table. I concluded, not much. Most of what he says about the "Google Way" is true, but it's been beaten to death in the business press for the last 10 years -- disintermediation, niches, transparency and collaboration with customers -- all developments of the internet age, but certainly at this point not new. At best, this is a rehash.
In the second part of the book, Jarvis tries to imagine a variety of industries and what they would look like if they adopted "Google" principles. There are some interesting ideas here, especially for such unreconstructed "atom-based" industries as automobile manufacturing, soft drinks, etc. And we all agree I'm sure that insurance, banking, and medicine could do with a large dose of digital deconstruction.
But in the end the book is thin, the execution of its central idea rather dilettantish, and the name-dropping obtrusive. Stylistically it suffers from that special strain of mouth-diarrhea that appears to be born of blogging. The professor should have approached this with a good deal more intellectual rigor, and resisted the temptation to write an Entertainment Weekly puff piece.