Why Google soars, and newspapers sink

By Steve Outing

Hint: It’s the leadership and corporate culture!

Check out this video of Google CEO Eric Schmidt being interviewed for WashingtonPost.com’s “On Leadership” series by Steven Pearlstein:

Wow. I hadn’t heard Schmidt talk about the Google corporate culture before, but watching this video interview made me realize why his company is so successful, and how the newspaper industry might be able to thrive if it adopted a similar networked, bottom-up decision structure.

To amplify that point, today I received a private e-mail from a frustrated interactive leader at a daily newspaper. She complained about her publisher and other top executives ignoring the good ideas for new revenue generators that she and her staff have suggested, and instead deferring to their own judgment and making the decision to move toward charging for news content on their website. In other words, this publisher has hired online/digital experts, and has access to smart web developers at corporate HQ, but chooses to ignore their advice in favor of his own “better judgment,” even though he’s not a digital-media expert.

If you watched the Schmidt video interview above, you’ll know that that couldn’t happen at Google.

The e-mail I mentioned is not the first I’ve received of its ilk. I periodically hear privately from newspaper online managers about their inability to get new ideas and initiatives approved, and their frustration that their expertise is ignored by executives who “know better.”

So I leave with a question: How do we get more newspaper publishers and executives to loosen the reins, and rein in the arrogance? Or do we just have to wait for them to retire or die?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!