WWGD: The video book

HarperCollins, my publisher for What Would Google Do?, just released a video version of the book, a 23-minute synopsis delivered by me, sans script, on camera. It’s for sale on Amazon here. And here‘s a Wall Street Journal story about it and here‘s PaidContent.

The point of this is that the publisher is trying to find new ways to release books and the ideas in them. This is their first video book; if it works, they say in the Journal they’ll make another half-dozen. The definition of “works”? Who knows?

It’s hard for me to watch myself. But you’re welcome to. Here’s a snippet:

  • Alan Mairson

    Hi Jeff,
    I’m looking forward to reading your book, and the video is a nice teaser. But…. since you’ve solicited comments, here’s mine: You need to vary the visuals — or, in this case, the visual. Not to say that you’re not a handsome guy! :-) … But I recently watched the video book for Jeff Howe’s “Crowdsourcing” ( http://is.gd/iepE ), and it had a lively & playful mix of images that helped deliver his message. In fact, I liked Howe’s video so much that I posted it on my Facebook page.
    Good luck with the book… and the tour.
    all the best,
    Alan Mairson

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  • Jon

    I have begun reading your book and I am hooked. I am in the beginning stages of my own start up and the information within the book is both inspiring , and provides reinforcement to my fiance that I am not insane.

    That being said….

    I am in opposition to the video book idea because….

    Though I am a fierce advocate for the web platform I still feel that the book is sacred. If we make videos for all books then I believe that we are taking away the one thing that makes them valuable , there intangibility. Perhaps a reader didn’t interpret the reading the way you meant, but say it led them on a journey that created a whole new way of doing something that hadn’t been the way you saw it. If a person were to read the book then watch the video then it would narrow the hall way of interpretation. This is good for you the author because you get your point across but bad for the readers who need room to develop there own interpretations.

    I am in favor of the video book idea because………

    I don’t want to seem like I don’t think its a good idea. For instance for those who can’t read or don’t have time to read it will be a helpful tool. I will use excerpts of this video in presentations , and employee training seminars. I think that the more diverse the information is on a specific subject the more enriching the experience will be for those of us trying to learn about it.

    In the end I it all boils down to marketing , and how the publishers wish the content to be packaged. I for one think since its the first one you ought to release it in beta and let us bottom feeding entrepreneurs have at it and spread it that’s what Google would do…right?

  • Alan Mairson

    P.S. Ahhh… I just realized this isn’t the book trailer, it’s a snippet of the 23-minute synopsis. But if the entire video is just Jeff talking, then my earlier suggestion (see above) is even more relevant. …. Put another way: If I’m going to listen *and* watch, then it’s important to tell *and* show.

  • This concept could be problematic: Ironically, your publisher is selling something for 10-bucks when Google is offering it for free – http://www.youtube.com/user/AtGoogleTalks.

    Not your presentation, but hundreds of others.

    Q: What Should HarperCollins Do?
    A: Get you out to the GooglePlex ASAP for a one-hour presentation.

    • > Get you out to the GooglePlex…

      Given that Jeff lives in New York, it would make a great deal more sense for him to present his book at the New York offices of Google as part of the “Authors at Google” series… Why got to California when NYC can do the job? :-)

      bob wyman

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  • Eric Gauvin

    Friendly reminder…

    Here’s the book for googley reading online:


  • I’m in the UK and I get:

    Video playback not authorized
    We have detected that you are not located within the US. Due to licensing restrictions Amazon Video On Demand customers must be located in the United States when viewing videos online. (What’s This?)

    • This is when I visit the Amazon link you supply above.

    • that’s incredible. i’ll ask what’s going on.

  • Hi Jeff,

    I listened to your talk on “What would Google do” at the recent NY tech meetup event. I think that while your idea of how Google lets everything out in beta first to allow the “public” to finish it is a wonderful concept, you should note that not every industry can adopt it.

    For ex: Early on (many years ago) If Coke the most successful consumer product out there asked people what should we do to make it better, then 50% of them would probably say things that would end up in a product such as Pepsi. Should they have followed that options. NO way. They made a great product that a significant % of the population likes and making any modifications to it, only results in the cannibalization of their own original product. They have made some attempts such as diet and so, but the company is till known by its Coke.

    I can give you many other examples such as this. Some industries especially where technology IP is deeply involved such as Applied Materials, Intel or Nikon. They cannot publicly ask the user base how to make things better. Some of the design and manufacturing practices are very complicated and incorporating user feedback will create huge headaches technically and financially.

    So Yes, there are certain industries where its great to do what Google does, but not all. Your slide depicted the concept of a Google-Bank and I think ideas such as that remain ideas and will not really fly. Too much openness is bad as well. Transparency is one area. It’s needed, but not at the level that you specify. National Security has to be of great concern at the levels of transparency you suggest. Your custom car example, while great, will not be cost effective.

    (By the way I have not read your book and don’t know whether you address all the issues over there – this is just based on the above video and your talk and slideshow at NY TECH meetup).

  • B. Epstein

    Mr. Jarvis:

    Google is a good search engine, quite responsive, generally gives meaningful results, and is tied to a well designed and implemented advertising model. The last I looked, their ad revenues from searches and AdWords accounted for somewhere over 95% of their total quarterly revenue. Search-based advertising is what Google mainly does, and does well. But I believe there is a severe disconnect between what is claimed in your interviews and the reality of Google’s own actions and performance. Here are some reasons why:

    1) Scarcity vs. Abundance. Why is Google’s stock so high? Yes they are able to make earnings and capture market share, but their price is mainly driven by supply vs. demand. Supply of this stock remains tight, and always was since its IPO. That has driven its price to the levels it is at — and down too (over 50% from its high). Nevertheless the stock price, and the company’s $109B market valuation (close to that of GE) are better reflective of a scarcity of its stock, and Google knows it. You can argue that their success is through well managing the abundance of information on the Web, but I can argue that is secondary. If market cap is the measure of success, scarcity wins here.

    2) Community. Google has been a dismal failure in providing services to build community. Orkut never caught on in the US and most other countries (except some in South America). The social networking path was forged by MySpace and Facebook. Yes, the auto companies and our government are in bad enough shape, but they need not learn from a loser in this space on how to build communities. By the way, Google’s own Google Video never took on traction either. Instead they paid an inflated price for YouTube, a transaction pushed through by the Silicon Valley Stanford-tied VCs who all know and feed off each other. I still wonder if their streaming costs are covered by their YouTube advertising.

    3) Listen to the community. Your arguments about building cars on the basis of personalization and social feedback could have some merit to a limited extent. Yes — it would be nice if Detroit listened to buyers of cars and built their cars accordingly, perhaps by offering a feature for this buyer or that buyer. Unfortunately, Detroit has been listening — perhaps too much. That is why we have so many gas guzzling SUVs and pick up trucks on the roads. During a 10 year+ period people simply wanted them and I need not go into the dire consequences. You have a nice iPod car jack anecdote — but do not forget that Apple is probably one of the most insular companies on the planet despite how they have managed in their own way (or more precisely, Steve Job’s way) to create products that people want. I should also mention the incremental cost of adding the smallest of changes to a mass manufactured product is almost infinitely higher than the cost of adding incremental changes to a software-based service such as Google, where such incremental costs are near zero. You cannot treat the manipulation of atoms the same as the manipulation of bits.

    4) Green? I applaud Google’s concern about the environment and efforts to tap into hydro-electric and solar resources to generate electricity for their operations. But their management are hypocrites. Try to find out why they wanted access to under-utilized NASA airstrip nearby the Googleplex. So they can have easy access to their private planes and jets. Eric Schmidt probably has one of the largest personal carbon footprints on the planet thanks to his long joyrides in his private jet.

    5) Scarcity (again). Google has managed to capture market share for search, and overly dominate this industry. That puts Google in an enviable position to control what search results people get. Getting a search result at position one, two, three, or even the first page of a search result has become an intense game and has fueled a growing industry for search optimization. Companies will also pay top dollar to get their ads placed high up on the search results page. We all know that such placements are a SCARCE RESOURCE, and Google profits tremendously from this. And by the way, if Google thinks you are doing something they do not like (such as offering a competing service), they will kick you off their search engine results. I know because it happened to me. Your web business will become a nonentity because nobody sees it from Google — in effect your URL is dust. Your visibility becomes invisible. VISIBILITY OVER NOISE IS A CRITICAL RESOURCE FOR ANY WEB-BASED BUSINESS, AND GOOGLE KNOWS HOW TO MANIPULATE IT. In short, it is not the abundance of information on Google (Yahoo and others have large amounts too), it is managing SCARCE prime ad space that has made them successful and to their credit they knew this when they embarked on the ad-driven model (which, by the way, they did not invent).

    6) Transparency. I would have to say Google is one of the least transparent companies on the planet — hence their high degree of evilness. They’ve done a great job of PR on how friendly they are to employees, schools, charities, whatever. But consider my own experience of placing an ad into Google’s AdWord network. I wanted to place an ad that would target an industry that had become a hot topic due to some laws that were passed. Some companies started to bid up the pricing of the ad positions. In December 2006 I could buy a top ad position for about 20 cents a click-thru. Six months later I was fighting for a top 3 position at about a $10 CPC. But how do I really know what bids others were submitting? For all I know Google could have been pushing the bids up by 1% or 200% on the basis of simply observing traffic patterns. In short, their ad pricing scheme is a total black box to those that put money into it. It is far from an exchange-based or open auction system. Their dominant market position allows it, and that is why they make so much money. Some can argue this revenue producing mechanism is bad or good, but the SYSTEM THAT ACCOUNTS FOR ALMOST ALL OF GOOGLE’S REVENUE IS FAR FROM TRANSPARENT AND IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST REVENUE PRODUCING BLACK BOXES IN CORPORATE HISTORY. If the US government wanted to learn about transparency in accounting for the use of the TARP funds, they must have already consulted with Google.

    7) Accountability. When you place an ad on Google AdWords, do you really know where your ads are being shown? Do you really know where your money is going? My own experience had shown that a substantial portion of my ad dollars were going to non-targeted sites; i.e., money wasted and into Google’s pocket. After I became suspicious about why my ad invoices were growing at a time when they should have been going down, I painstakingly used Google’s very own ad tracking tools to deduce that somebody was somehow spamming my ad through a Bebo (social networking) site. This action was not through excessive click-thrus but through excessive page views — like about 1 million servings of my AdWords ad in a single period of a few hours when I typically had about 200K servings over a month. This incident cost me around $250, Google had billed my credit card for it before I knew anything was going on. Google refused to acknowledge that they were in error or that there was any fraud. After days of back-and-forth email exchanges, email responses from machines, email escalations, etc. (and never a human voice to talk to), I threatened legal action. Suddenly the “good” guys of Google offered me a credit for the questionable ad servings under the condition that they were nice guys and welcomed my business (my credit still sits there after almost 2 years). This leads me to the following questions: a) How many purchasers of AdWords really check to see where their ads are getting served or from what search results? b) Is it worth spending hours to check the integrity of the search results when your AdWords bill is only $100 or less a month? c) Why would Google have any incentive to assure delivering targeted ads as promised when it is in their financial interest to do otherwise when they can get away with it (and in my case almost did)? Yes, big companies that pay Google and SEO consultants thousands of dollars a month could afford to check the ad serving statistics that Google generates and dispute the charges, but the small guy or small business does not have such resources or may not even think to. Therein lies an interesting paradox — Google will profit best from those it unknowingly or knowingly cheats the most.

    In short, I do not see Google as the smart, amazing, goody-goody company that you portray. I see Google as a monopolistic beast that makes Microsoft look like a pack of angels. Perhaps time will tell.

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