GOOGLE: AT THE FORE OF A PUBLISHING REVOLUTION
Google Inc. is poised to ignite a technological revolution in publishing, a revolution that will establish the company as a leader in the publishing industry. This thesis will be supported by applying existing theories on industry and organisational life cycles, technology, and business strategy to the current state of the publishing industry vis-à-vis internal factors at Google.
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Google Inc. is strategically poised to ignite a technological revolution in the publishing industry, a move that will permit Google, already proclaimed as “the top search engine in the world” (Piper 2004), to become the dominant player in the electronic publishing, or e-publishing, industry and a major force in the broader publishing industry.
Importance of the Topic
Today, the world is witnessing the beginnings of a technological challenge to traditional ‘paper and ink’ publishing. This challenge, which is not unlike that posed by Internet enterprises to traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retail establishments, banks, and service organisations, is being led by Google Inc.
Based on a theoretical foundation, this research will explore the convergence of new technologies and organisational factors that Google is strategically leveraging to revolutionise publishing and to achieve leadership status in the publishing industry.
Theoretical Base for the Research
Research will be based on industry and organisational life cycle theories as well as classic technology theory and its relevance to the life cycle theories and business strategy. Industry life cycle theory suggests that industries pass through a series of stages which affect factors such as competition, consumer demand, and strategy. Organisational life cycle theory suggests that all organisations evolve through a typically predictable set of sequential stages in which their thinking and behaviour change. The concept of technology in this context refers to the methods and mechanisms that organisations use to transform inputs into outputs. The application of technology, through the implementation of organisational strategies, can affect industry and organisational life cycles. The theory of competitive position suggests that organisations adopt strategies that reflect their positions in the market.
Prior Research on the Topic
Google’s Web site (n.d.) states that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Deutschman (2005) reports that Google, founded in 1998, has experienced phenomenal sales growth of more than 400,000% in the past five years, making it the fastest growing company in history. He states that the market value of the company is US$80 billion. Wikipedia (n.d.) traces Google’s history from its inception as a research project in 1996 through today and furnishes insight into management and salaries, the corporate culture, acquisitions, and legal and social issues. Google has been described as “more than a search engine, less than a god” (Piper 2004) and as “the 800-pound octopus that is filling potential rivals with dread and envy”, implicitly threatening competitors with acquisition or elimination. (Elgin and Hesseldahl 2005). Glover (2004) summarises Google’s business model as one which offers its services to the public at no cost, earning its revenue from advertisers who post links to their own Web sites then pay fees to Google based on the number of people who make the link from Google to the advertisers’ sites.
Elgin and Hesseldahl (2005) provide significant insight into Google’s ambitious business expansion plans and its challenges to major industry players. Notess (2005) reports on Google’s first entry into the e-publishing arena with Google Answers. Pike (2005) describes Google Scholar and the Google Library Project as continuing forays into the e-publishing industry; M2 Presswire (2004) explains Google Library in more depth. Notess (2005) compares Google Scholar with Scirus, a competitive product. Peek (2004) reports on Google’s relationship with DSpace, a company devoted to capturing, storing, indexing, preserving, and redistributing university research results, and the Electronic Education Report (2003) describes Google’s relationship with DK Publishing in a joint effort to install an encyclopaedia for young people on the Web. Jesdanun (2005) reports on the impact Google Library is having on the publishing industry. Ferguson (2005) and Dodson (2005) provide in-depth analyses of Google’s cross-industry plans for the future as well as plans specifically relating to the publishing industry. Finally, Carvajal (2005), Degtyareva (2005), Liedtke (May and August 2005), and PR Newswire (2005) pose global issues that Google as well as publishers and authors are facing with regard to Google’s e-publishing plans.
In addition to the sources surveyed for information about Google, research was conducted into the history of publishing, industry life cycle, technology theory, organisational life cycle, and business strategy formulation. Feather (1990) and Millgate (1987) write extensively about the history of publishing. The Columbia Encyclopedia (2004) defines publishing in a broad sense as “making something publicly known” then continues by describing its history, the emergence of publishing firms, new technologies, and mergers and acquisitions. Proctor (2000), in advising that industry life cycle is a key factor in business strategy planning, identifies and describes in detail the three stages that comprise an industry’s life cycle – growth, maturity, and decline – as well as the characteristics of industries at each stage. Pitt (2000) explores the philosophical meaning of and various definitions for technology. Daft (1998, citing Rosseau 1979 and Perrow 1967) defines technology as “the tools, techniques, and actions used to transform inputs into outputs”. Daft (1998) likens the life cycle of an organisation to that of a person (i.e. birth, growth, and death), citing the following as stages through which an organisation passes during its development: entrepreneurial stage, collectivity stage, formalisation stage, and elaboration stage. Smith and colleagues (1991) provide a conceptual framework and a comprehensive methodology for developing and implementing business strategies.
The selected approach involves using secondary research to support the stated thesis. The interrelationships among industry and organisational life cycle, technology, and business strategy theories will be explored then related to the history of the publishing industry to explain the reasons that the industry is at a stage where it is susceptible to fundamental change. Finally, based on the established theoretical foundation and the publishing industry’s susceptibility to change, data collected about Google Inc.’s history, mission, business model, financial status, competitors, challenges, technologies, and plans for the future will be used to show that the company is in a unique position to take advantage of the publishing industry’s susceptibility to change by fundamentally changing publishing technology thereby allowing Google to become the dominant player in the electronic publishing, or e-publishing, industry and a major force in the broader publishing industry.
Limitations and Key Assumptions
This project will not involve the use of primary research as sufficient secondary data exists. The research will allude to the many business opportunities that Google is currently exploring to highlight the extent of the company’s expansion plans, but will concentrate on the company’s e-publishing initiatives. Only the theories identified in this proposal will be used to prove the thesis.
No assumptions are being made.
Contribution to Knowledge
The contribution to knowledge resulting from this research will be to use industry and organisational life cycle, technology, and business strategy theories and their interrelationships to demonstrate how Google can leverage its position and new technologies to fundamentally change a major existing industry and to establish a leadership position in that industry.
It is envisioned that the dissertation will consist of six chapters: (1) introduction, (2) survey of prior research, (3) research methodology, (4) research results, (5) analysis of results, and (6) summary and conclusions.
Carvajal, Doreen (2005) ‘German publishers, Google challenge’, International Herald Tribune, June 6, 2005.
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Degtyareva, Victoria (2005) ‘New Google digital library hits copyright roadblocks’, University Wire, September 21, 2005.
Deutschman, Alan (2005) ‘Can Google stay Google’, Fast Company, August 1, 2005.
Dodson, Angela P. (2005) ‘A whole new meaning for the verb to Google – Between the lines: The inside scoop on what’s happening in the publishing industry’. Black Issues Book Review, March 1, 2005.
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Elgin, Ben and Hesseldahl, Arik (2005) ‘Google’s grand ambitions’, Business Week, September 5, 2005.
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PR Newswire (2005) ‘Google Library project raises serious questions for publishers and authors, August 12, 2005.
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