Friday, April 30, 2004

Google Semi-Public Offering: Maximizing Cash and Cultural Change Potential

Well, you can't say that Google doesn't stick to their guns. The New York Times reports along with the world on the details of Google's S-1 registration statement for their initial public stock offering. Public shares will be a small portion of Google's voting share structure and the owners make it clear that although they'll play by the rules they are not playing the game. Quarterly earnings fluctuations? Think long-term, please. And your long-term goal? "Don't be evil," they opine. It's refreshing stuff from a company that stands to have a valuation nearly as large as Yahoo!'s right out of the blocks, even if somewhat disdainful of true public ownership. But what does it mean to the content industry? It means that there is at least one vContent company that's situated to make the tough decisions that may change the nature of how content value is determined and recognized - regardless as to whether content companies are ready to play their game or not. It also means that they're willing to make some major mistakes along the way to achieving that goal - which may or may not please their content partners. As noted in our weblog on the Buying and Selling eContent Conference there are many publishers and distributor of premium content that see working with Google as "dancing with the devil." Who is truly evil in this scenario? The good is in the doing as much as in the being, so we will have to see just how well all parties in this complex equation play along with one another.

One thing is for sure, though: with accountability comes humility, whether the accountable like it or not. Google has signed on for some extremely lofty goals that promise humanness as they try to change the face of how human understanding is formed. The IPO will give Google some immediate cash to counter more aggressive competition that's beginning to zero in on their basic value equation and an invested public interest that can act as a semi-empowered cheerleader for their efforts. Google hopes to minimize the pressure from their cheerleaders while trying to educate them, but as anyone who goes to a sporting event well knows, cheerleaders can turn on you when you least expect it. With numerous new product initiatives required for a more comprehensive competitive stance still in the formative stages there is a lot that can go wrong in trying to assemble their vision. Good luck with the IPO, Google; remember what you said in the S-1 as the times get rough.
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