Thursday, December 22, 2005

They All Jump The Shark

Posted by Phil Aaronson at 11:27 AM

Here's a great blog "mash-up". The other day I happened to read John Batelle's, Yow. Don't Jump The Shark, Google and then listened NerdTV's interview with Brewster Kahle. The jumping the shark issue, revolved around the preferential treatment AOL content will get in Google's search results in addition to the billion dollars Google will spend to get 5% of AOL. The question was, had Google gone too far? But when you listen to the Brewster Kahle interview, around minute 40 or so, you get this which I've copied from the handy transcript of the interview.
Bob: Well, tell me about that. Why should we be worried that they have all this data?
Brewster: The motivation structure of - of companies in the United States are very straightforward. If you're a public company, you have to pursue shareholder value. That's the only thing that you're allowed to pursue. You're not allowed to go and pursue other goals. That's it. As it - that - you're - by law, if you're a fiduciary of a company that's all you can do. So it really limits what you can trade off. There are times that you sort of given some slack, but at some point, shareholders can go and sue the company if they're not directly pursuing their financial interests. It's very limited. I mean it's sort of - what's interesting about it is it's very straightforward -
Bob: Yeah.
Brewster: So you can predict people very easily _cause they're just going for money.
Bob: Yeah.
Brewster: So - but if you're - if you've got some other things you want to trade off against let's say, you know, employee happiness or trust with your customers or things like that, those get a little bit hazier and often lost in the mix. And over time things change, leaders change, you know, these - these companies last a long, long time.
The flaw here, as Brewster Kahle reminds us, is that sooner or later public companies are forced to jump the shark. He also makes some very interesting comments about AOL and AOL's Steve Case, which were then echoed by Tim O'Reilly:
Bob: You know last week we talked to Brewster Kahle. And---
Tim: Yep, sold about the same time.
Bob: Sold WAIS to AOL about the same time they were buying GNN. So it looked like they were really putting together something that they then didn't leverage very well.
Tim: Yeah, I think what happened was that they were nervous about the Internet. And so they sort of assembled all these properties. And then they went actually it's okay, our existing service is fine. It's we don't really need to make that move. And then they kind of just didn't really focus on it. And then a few years later of course they regret it. I saw Steve Case maybe it must have been 2000 or something like that. The first words out of his mouth were "Oh, I still regret how we muffed the GNN opportunity." Because it really was the first web portal. It was Yahoo before there was Yahoo. And AOL they treat it as just kind of an off brand of their service rather than really continuing to embrace the web.
  1. Yow. Don't Jump The Shark, Google, via RSS.
  2. Nerd TV's Interview of Brewster Kahle, via iTunes.
  3. Nerd TV's Interview of Tim O'Reilly, via iTunes.


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