It's a Google World

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For KCRW, I'm Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

All-powerful Google, which snapped up YouTube earlier this month for $1.6 billion, is so ubiquitous that it even has a fan in the White House. President Bush, who referred to the World Wide Web as "the Internets" in a debate with John Kerry, says he enjoys using Google Earth, which shows satellite images of the earth in fascinating detail.

In an interview on CNBC, Bush said he likes to gaze at his Texas ranch on Google because it "reminds me of where I want to be sometimes."

I wonder if he ever checks out the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the apparent hiding place of a certain elusive terrorist whom Bush promised he would capture.

But back to Google.

A Wall Street Journal Online story pointed out the obvious last week when it said Google's dominance is so complete that, "around the world, Internet users don't search for information, they Google it."

In that context, The Journal said, Google's purchase of YouTube makes sense. YouTube is already "the mandatory first stop when something happens in the world and you want to see what it might have looked like on TV."

The paper said the current political campaign is being called the first 'YouTube election' because of videos being posted of politicians using insulting racial terms or falling asleep at important hearings.

But there could be trouble ahead for YouTube's new owner, the Journal said: "Already, media companies like Viacom are thumping their chests about the legal action they plan on taking against YouTube" for all the copyright-infringing material on the site.

Meanwhile, other video-sharing sites are "wondering how they missed the tidal wave that YouTube caught," the Journal said. "Might one extra link, one new video, 12 months ago have caused things to tip their way instead of toward YouTube? The answer to that $1.6 billion question involves the behavior of crowds, something that all the computers in the world put together still aren't able to figure out."

The Associated Press reported last week that YouTube, founded only in February last year, now shows more than 100 million video clips a day, with a worldwide audience of more than 70 million.

But Seana Mulcahy, who blogs on MediaPost's Online Spin, wrote yesterday that she doesn't get all the fuss over YouTube: "I don't understand the mentality of going back to a site over and over again" to see a video, she wrote. "What I really don't get is why Google picked the company up. Sure, Google is an 800-pound gorilla that scoops up companies like bananas for breakfast  But YouTube? Is it me, or does this seem like lawsuit after lawsuit waiting to happen?"

Reporter Katie Hafner, in yesterday's New York Times, wrote that in addition to the millions of users Google draws every day, it attracts plenty of lawyers, even without YouTube.

"As Google has grown into the world's most popular search engine and, arguably, the most powerful Internet company," she wrote, "it has become entangled in scores of lawsuits touching on a wide range of legal questions, including copyright violation, trademark infringement and its method of ranking Web sites."

Google has inherited a lawsuit filed last summer by Robert Tur, who owns a video from the 1992 Los Angeles riots that shows a trucker being beaten by thugs. He's suing YouTube for copyright violation.

Jason Glickman wrote yesterday on MediaPost's Video Insider blog that Google's purchase of YouTube "is a major wake-up call to traditional TV advertisers that there is BIG money in online video.

"As Google has invaded both radio and print, this may very well be its entrance into television."

It's a Google world out there.

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.



Nick Madigan