Ken Auletta talks Google

American journalist Ken Auletta says Google once discussed buying the New York Times but decided that would damage its "neutral" identity.

Google "is not obsessed with killing competitors," he adds. "They're obsessed with eliminating inefficiencies."

Auletta, the New Yorker media columnist, has come out with a new book, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.

This C-Span interview with Auletta is long but interesting for anyone interested in new and old media. He talks about Google, its founders and its search algorithm among other things.

Here's an interview he gave, which appeared in I Want Media.

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Chinese, social media to dominate Net, says Google CEO

Google CEO Eric Schmidt envisions a radically changed internet five years from now: dominated by Chinese-language and social media content, delivered over super-fast bandwidth in real time. Figuring out how to rank real-time social content is "the great challenge of the age," Schmidt said in an interview in front of thousands of CIOs and IT Directors at last week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Orlando 2009, reports ReadWriteWeb.

Here is a videoclip from the interview posted by ReadWriteWeb.

There's lots more in the full 45 minutes of Schmidt's interview, including a statement that a Google OS Netbook will be here in 2010,

Here Schmidt says:

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Free because we blog, tweet, in an attention economy

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Singapore's Straits Times and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post are the only English language newspapers I know that do not allow their stories to be read online for free.

Even the Financial Times allows some of its stories to be read for free.

Not the Straits Times. All you can read for free on its website are wire stories, letters to the editor, readers' comments — and, yes, its blogs. Just don't expect to see the newspaper's regular columnists there. You can read Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman for free, but you have to pay to read Andy Ho and Sumiko Tan.

It just goes to show the amazing strength of the Straits Times that, while virtually everyone else is giving away original content for free, it can still charge for what it has to offer.

Digital cheap

Newspapers can allow free online access because the digital medium is so cheap, says Chris Anderson in his book, Free. It's fascinating reading. The Wired magazine editor says why readers must pay to read his magazine but enjoy free access to the website:

"In print, I operate by the rules of scarcity, since each page is expensive and I have a limited number of them… Not only are our pages expensive, they are also unchangeable. Once the presses run, our mistakes and errors of judgment are preserved for posterity (or at least until they are recycled)…

"Online, however, pages are infinite and indefinitely changeable. It's an abundance economy and invites a totally different management approach. On our Web site we have dozens of bloggers, many of them amateurs, who write what they want, without editing…

"Standards such as accuracy and fairness apply across the board, but in print we have to get everything right before publication, at great expense, while online we can correct as we go."

The website costs only a fraction of the magazine business:

"We pay dollars to print, bind and mail a magazine to you… but just microcents to show it to you on our Web site. That's why we can treat it as free, because on a user-by-user basis, it is, in fact, too cheap to meter.

"Overall, our server and bandwidth bill amounts to several thousand dollars a month. But that's to reach millions of readers."

Newspaper publishers are beginning to ask what's the point of reaching millions of readers when advertisers are willing to pay for only a certain target audience.

Attention economy

But money alone no longer makes the world go round, as even businesses acknowledge. Why else do they make such a fuss about brand recognition?

Welcome to the attention economy. Another reason to read Free, especially if you are a blogger or interested in the media.

Anderson explains the new economy in terms any blogger or user of Facebook, Twitter or MySpace will understand:

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Words most commonly found on Google

Google is no slouch when it comes to finding God, love and sex, but guess what's even more common on the Internet? Why, of course, domain names. Yes, www are the three letters most commonly found on a Google search in less than half a second. And the runner-up? Search.

Love trails behind popular online activities and applications such as search, click, mail, email, Yahoo, Google,web, blog, Internet and Facebook.

And God and sex are far, far behind. Even YouTube,Twitter, Microsoft, China, America, India – and, yes, sex — take precedence over God. So does UK, being part of a domain name.

But, moralists will be glad to note, not porn. That's less commonly found in less than half a second on Google.

Marking Google's 10th anniversary, I searched for the following words and here are the results.

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How Twitter beat Google on Pirate Bay story

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Even Google can't keep up with Twitter, where the news sometimes comes straight from the newsmaker's mouth.

Pirate Bay cofounder Peter S Kolmisoppi tweeted at 5.15 pm yesterday: I'm expecting big news tomorrow.

When I saw his tweet this afternoon, I checked the news sites but found nothing and forgot all about it.

And now the news is all over the net. The BBC reports:

Lawyers for four men jailed for running The Pirate Bay file-sharing website are calling for a retrial, saying the judge could have had a conflict of interest.

Judge Tomas Norstrom is a member of the Swedish Copyright Association and sits on the board of Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property.

But the judge has told Swedish Radio: "These activities do not constitute a conflict of interest."

The Pirate Bay cofounder – who uses the name brokep on Tweeter – tweeted three hours ago he would be speaking to the BBC from a Swedish Radio studio.

The Local, an English news site in Sweden, is running its own story.

The BBC reports:

Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde were found guilty of breaking copyright law on 17 April 2009 and sentenced to a year in jail.

The four were also ordered to pay $4.5million  (£3million) in damages to a number of entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Sony Music Entertainment.

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Don’t let the music die on YouTube

Cry, fans of Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Madonna, cry. They could disappear from YouTube.

Warner Music Group is threatening to pull all its artistes from YouTube after a right royal row over royalties, reports the Guardian.

Oh, that’s the Grateful Dead playing. Aren’t they just great?

YouTube was bought by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006, the same year Warner Music became the first music group to sign a deal with the site.

Now if they fail to renegotiate the deal, all these artistes’ recordings on various Warner Music Group labels could disappear from YouTube:

Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Yes, Alice Cooper,The Ramones, The Monkees, Curtis Mayfield and Elvis Costello (Rhino)

Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin, Tracy Chapman, Phil Collins (Atlantic)

Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne (Elektra)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out Warner Music Group to see all the artistes it represents.

Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia online traffic

Channel NewsAsia is still more popular than the Straits Times online. The Straits Times’ Google PageRank, in fact, is the same as Mr Brown’s. Yes, the popular Singapore blog has the same PageRank as Singapore’s leading newspaper. The 24-hour Singapore TV news station Channel NewsAsia’s PageRank is just one level higher.

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The Straits Times

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Channel NewsAsia

Channel NewsAsia is ahead in Alexa Traffic rankings too. Alexa rankings are not conclusive proof of a website’s popularity, but Channel NewsAsia beats the Straits Times in social networking too, with more bookmarks, posts and links in Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Technorati and Wikipedia.

Straits_times_social_popularity 

The Straits Times

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Channel NewsAsia

Channel NewsAsia has the advantage of being a free site. The Straits Times allows only limited free access.

The Straits Times’ search engine optimization has improved. It now shows up much more often on Google News.

The Straits Times gets most traffic from Singapore, the USA, China, India and Malaysia in that order and Channel NewsAsia from Singapore, China, the USA, India and Indonesia.

Here is a look at the traffic and social popularity of the Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia.

Google Notebook’s future uncertain

Google Inc has begun to tighten its belt and one of the products whose future is uncertain is Google Notebook, a site for storing and taking notes on web pages, reports the Wall Street Journal. Too bad if the plug is pulled on Google Notebook. It is useful. There are substitutes, but Google is Google. Its huge network of servers makes using its online applications a snap.

Google has shelved plans for a new data centre to house its computer servers too, says the Journal: the facility planned in Oklahoma has been mothballed.

With the US economy in a recession, Google is cutting back spending, says the report. It adds:

“Still, with $14 billion in cash and roughly 30 percent of the U.S. online-ad market, Google is in a much better position than its competitors to withstand this downturn, Wall Street analysts say.”

Amen.

Where will we be without Google?

Singapore and Google: Points of similarity

Is there a similarity between Singapore and Google? One's a little city state, the other an internet giant, but both have come up fast and have been immensely successful. Google, which will be 10 years old next month, dominates the Net. As its Corporate Information page says, "Google is the closest thing the Web has to an ultimate answer machine." Singapore has also been a remarkable success story, becoming the second richest country in Asia since its independence in August 1965.

No one expected Google to become what it is today when it started as a simple search page, when Yahoo! and Microsoft were the internet giants. Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, says he was unsure of Singapore's future when the island was expelled from Malaysia.

Google's home page is white, the colour favoured by Singapore's ruling People's Action Party as a symbol of clean government. Transparency and clean government are the watchwords of the Singapore government, which is vigilant in its fight against corruption. "Do no evil" is the motto of Google.

Google is constantly innovating. Singapore is also known for its social engineering, which includes a massive public housing scheme which has helped more than 90 percent of Singaporeans live in their own homes and a government matchmaking agency to help Singaporeans get married.

Google is controversial, so is Singapore. Both have been criticised by human rights organisations: Google is seen as a threat to privacy while Singapore is rapped for lack of freedom of the media among other things. In fact, what made me think of the similarities between Singapore and Google was the Observer article, Google, 10 years in: big, friendly giant or a greedy Goliath? Incidentally, I love Singapore and Google.

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Google making us stupid or pop culture making us smarter?

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Is Google making us stupid, as Rough Type blogger Nicholas Carr (above left) asks in the latest issue of Atlantic magazine? Or is pop culture, along with video games, making people smarter, as Malcolm Gladwell (above right) asked in a New Yorker article three years ago?

Carr laments the Internet has reduced his powers of concentration and habit of sustained reading because he has got used to searching the Net and getting information instantly. He says:

The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after.

But he adds:

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

But reading is not the only source of intelligence, says Gladwell. Playing video games and even watching television can sharpen intelligence. And modern-day soap operas like The Sopranos have become more complex than their earlier counterparts, he says, quoting Steven Johnson:

A typical episode of “Starsky and Hutch,” in the nineteen-seventies, followed an essentially linear path: two characters, engaged in a single story line, moving toward a decisive conclusion…  A single episode of “The Sopranos,” by contrast, might follow five narrative threads, involving a dozen characters who weave in and out of the plot.

Johnson develops the same argument about video games…

They don’t have a set of unambiguous rules that have to be learned and then followed during the course of play. This is why many of us find modern video games baffling: we’re not used to being in a situation where we have to figure out what to do.

Gladwell says:

It doesn’t seem right, of course, that watching “24″ or playing a video game could be as important cognitively as reading a book.

The point is that books and video games represent two very different kinds of learning. When you read a biology textbook, the content of what you read is what matters. Reading is a form of explicit learning. When you play a video game, the value is in how it makes you think.

Being “smart” involves facility in both kinds of thinking—the kind of fluid problem solving that matters in things like video games and I.Q. tests, but also the kind of crystallized knowledge that comes from explicit learning.

Personally, I am clueless about video games and don’t care for soaps. I will stick to books and the Net. And if that’s not enough to get smarter, there’s nothing to be done about it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.