Buying a media company or content producer such as NBC or the New York Times wouldn’t make sense for Google, an executive from the Internet bellwether said Wednesday.
“Those are very different businesses from what Google is,” said Kevin Yen, director of strategic partnerships at Google’s YouTube. “We’re not good at content. … We create platforms that allow other people to succeed.”
Yen spoke on the panel “the Changing Face of Media and News” at the 2009 Media Summit New York, organized by the McGraw-Hill Cos. and produced by Digital Hollywood. His answer came in response to the suggestion that Google could make more money from content if it owned it.
Yen also pointed to some YouTube data in arguing that the appetite for news remains big in the digital age.
“News content does very, very well on our site,” he said. From 2007 through now, news content playbacks on YouTube are up 600 percent, helped in part by the 2008 Olympics and U.S. elections, he said.
Faced with the suggestion that other companies’ content seems to have worked really well for Google, Yen said “not necessarily,” highlighting that the success of Google’s core search business is not comparable to YouTube’s performance, which has been held back by monetization issues. “We are working hard to crack the monetization nut,” Yen said.
He also emphasized that Google is looking to build long-term relationships with content partners by ensuring business terms favorable to them.
On the panel, the question of the death of news and media as we know it was a key theme.
Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff suggested that news in its traditional sense is interesting only to people over 40 these days. “We are all waiting for our audience to stroke out,” he said about the digital age.
Asked about the decline of newspapers and other media, Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at the Associated Press, pointed out the pro of audience appetites and the con of digital monetization challenges. “We are not having an audience crisis,” he said. “But what’s gone haywire is the business models.”
Dick Meyer, editorial director for digital media at NPR disagreed, though. “There probably is an audience crisis,” he said on a more somber note. “The audience is less willing to pay for news” or put up with advertising in the digital age.