Lessons learned in 2009: In search of the next Steve Jobs, or the next Google

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Rupert Murdoch, Sam Zell and Barry Diller have all laid out grand visions for the future of media, encouraging all to follow their lead. But smart companies would be wise to blaze their own trail rather than listen to these pied pipers. As last year's messiahs fall from grace, a new crop is emerging with such players as Tim Armstrong of Aol and Carol Bartz of Yahoo. Are any of these heavyweights capable of challenging Google's dominance?

Is there a Steve Jobs of publishing?

Rupert Murdoch

  • In 2009, we saw Murdoch reverse his stance on paid content. Before acquiring the Wall Street Journal, he said that he wanted to take WSJ.com and focus its business model more on advertising by loosening the reins on gating content to subscribers.  When the recession kicked in, he started waving the paid content flag as if he invented the idea.
  • His war of words with Google has got him on the front page of many news sites, but has it advanced the cause of any of his businesses?
  • More of Murdoch's highlights and lowlights 
Barry Diller
Sam Zell
  • Many were skeptical of Zell's ability to right the Chicago Tribune's ship at the time he acquired the company, but no one could possibly foresee how quickly it fell into disarray and bankruptcy.
  • Google Trends: Sam Zell in 2009
 Tim Armstrong and Carol Bartz

Google making all the right moves

  • Local monetization, all roads lead to Rome Google. Sean Blanda's blog post on Google's emerging local efforts demonstrates how quickly the search powerhouse can become dominant in a new space.
  • The AdMob acquisition is going to look exceptionally smart next year with mobile marketing forecast to grow by $4 billion.
  • Following the acquisition of DoubleClick last year, Google doubled down on display advertising by acquiring Teracent. If display advertising comes back in 2010 like many believe it will, I'd put my money on Google over Yahoo or Aol this year.
  • The only potential flaw that I see in Google's game plan is that they don't an answer to social networking. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have all had banner years and seen their valuations skyrocket. However, one could make the case that acquiring one of these companies could lead Google to lose its focus in the same way that Yahoo did.
  • Google's 2009

What media companies can learn

Google is winning by matching a forward-looking strategy with strong execution and smart acquisitions.  They made the decision to build out their local offerings organically because it leveraged their core competencies, search and ROI-based advertising. Meanwhile, they acquired businesses that had talent, expertise and market share in the areas that were complementary but not currently something they did well.

Media companies should focus on defining their core competencies, focusing resources around those areas of expertise, and plugging holes via acquisition instead of trying to fight wars in the press or cut their businesses into extinction.

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