By Joe Pulizzi published October 6, 2011

Google Will Be the Largest Content Producer in Three Years

A decade ago when I worked for Penton Media, Google was a hot topic.  To partner or not?  Do we open up our web content to Google’s spiders?

It seems a silly discussion today, but it was big business then.  Publishers and editors were of the mindset that Google was somehow stealing their content by indexing it and serving it up to Google’s search engine.

As more publishers realized the number of relevant readers they were getting to their websites, Google turned from axis to ally.

So with publishers on board about the possibilities that Google could bring them (in both traffic and Adsense sales), it set the stage for Google’s growth.

And Google Grew.

In 2010, Google did almost $30 billion in revenue and $8.5 billion in profit.  They have $34 billion in short-term investments and cash-on-hand.

And Google continues to be the place where people find stuff.  They are the problem solver.  They link people to other people’s content, spatter it with a bit of advertising, and make a ton of money doing it.

Google Is Changing The Model

For all of its amazing innovations such as Google Voice, Google Apps and even their Android platform, the large majority of Google’s revenue still comes from Adsense.  The product diversification has happened, but the revenue results are lagging.  For those of you who understand the stock market, Google trades at a PE Ratio of 12.3, a historic low.  This means that investors look at Google as more a value play and not a growth stock any longer.

So where does Google go from here?

Ah yes, to Content.

I need to find something.  I go to Google.  I do a few searches on Google.  I click on a link.  After that, for the moment, Google loses me as a revenue opportunity.

But what if?

I need to find something.  I go to Google.  I do a few searches on Google.  I click on a link.  That link is a piece of Google content (video, textual, audio, etc.).  Google monetizes that content through more advertising and sponsorship.

Yep, this is the future.  Heck, it’s the present. The clear start of this was Google’s purchase of restaurant-review media company Zagat a few months ago. No one made a peep.  Everyone seemed happy.

And now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Google is putting up $100 million to create content for its YouTube franchise.  Google is the publisher investing in content in order to monetize that content on the back-end through sponsorship.

In a matter of just a few weeks ($125 million investment in Zagat and a $100 million YouTube content investment), Google has become one of the largest publishers on the planet.  And now there is no stopping them.

What Should You Expect from Google?

Regarding content, here are just a few possible events that shouldn’t surprise you over the next few years:

  • Google will provide customized content for both brands and media companies.
  • Google will start purchasing the leading niche providers of content in multiple verticals.
  • Google will begin to hire journalists and content creators of all types to provide content for all Google platforms.

It makes too much sense.  Google can stay with the consumer throughout the purchase cycle.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad, I’m just making the point that this is happening…and that this will affect content creators (media-side and brand-side) in all industries and verticals.  Google will be the largest content producer on the planet. We need to start preparing for this now.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Bob Rosenbaum

    Nice post, Joe. I agree wholeheartedly with the point, though I suspect that Google’s employment of journalists will arise through its acquisitions of existing content providers rather than through new hiring as AOL famously did for Patch last year (we’re all counting down the months until those people start to lose their jobs).
    Google also has a history of learning from its mistakes. At one time, as it was discovering the value of its Adsense/Adwords model, Google also started buying up print advertising inventory at remainder rates in a failed effort to break into print advertising. The world is more digital now than it was for that short-lived experiment; Google’s accumulation of content will be far more powerful than its accumulation of advertising inventory.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Amen Bob! Amen!

  • Rob Yoegel

    Right on, Joe. Had to send this to you (from July 2008)!/ Note the first sentence:

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Right on…I’m surprised more people don’t look at Google as the publisher they are…with technology no longer a barrier to entry, content is the differentiating factor. Google knows this.

  • Bob Rosenbaum

    The other detail is that Google already has the brilliant business model to monetize content. With its astounding reach, every content generator that Google acquires simply increases the revenue and profitability of its existing cash cow: adsense/adwords.
    And I’m not aware of any emerging business models – mobile, tablet, app or otherwise – that are likely to challenge that in the forseeable future.

  • Gina

    This is horrible. It means Google will give preferential exposure to its own content vs. other content. It means SEO and quality journalism will be trumped by their dollars and their political slants. One search engine with that much power is destined for corruption.

    It’s time for a new Search Engine to start rising.

  • Michael Procopio

    While I agree that Google is becoming more of a publisher I disagree that they “loose you” if you click on a non-Google property link. If the site uses Adwords, which is a lot of sites, they still have you. Admittedly, if a site uses other ads there will be impact but even the big sites like use Adwords in addition to their other ads.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Correct Michael…indeed a lot of publishers do use Adwords, but most of the niche publishers don’t anymore. It’s more beneficial for them to get sponsors to cover that space.

  • Rachel

    I feel like Google IS already the largest content producer. Other search engines can’t compare with the amount of information Google has. Whenever we want to find out information, Google is there. I hear “Google it” very often, eventually the word will replace “search”.

  • Mike Taylor

    Google sets the rules and competes in the game. Content is king in the rankings algo and Google will produce content for the web. Go figure. Much better to ride their coat tails

  • Rick Schwartz

    Google will certainly become the largest provide of content -if it isn’t already. As of now, it is a broker of other people’s content.

    The test of their longevity as a provider of original content will be dependent on how well they exercise their editorial muscle that comes with the territory.

    If the writers they employ are only those who are happy to do google’s bidding and write the pieces and opinions that are required of them – it instantly eliminates all of the great, passionate, independent writers that currently fill the ether.

    I have faith in those writer’s spirit and determination. There are many other ways to gain publicity on the web.

    I would then say, that there will be two parallel sources for content. Google will promote their message that that speed of access and wide range of topics is better than high quality writing of independent writer who have expertise and passion on their side.

    If you are completely new to the web, you’ll be amazed at the power of finding content on google. Once you’re a little more experience you’ll find your own sources that move past the step of having to google first.

    In my own area of interest I can’t imagine people like Scott Strattedn, Pete Cashmore, Guy Kawaski, Seth Godin etc ever becoming “writers” for Google.

    And I a can assure you there are tons of these guys out there who just haven’t been noticed yet. I’d be surprised if they’d “sell out” as opposed to looking for their own path to notoriety.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Rick…I see your point, but the same can be said of Huffington Post and even Demand Media. I think it all depends on how you look at it, and there is no black and white in my opinion.

  • Bryce

    Great post, but I have to agree with Gina; Google owns YouTube, and thats means the #1 and #2 search engines in the world will be producing their own content. They could easily preference their own websites and leave niche affiliate marketing in the dust, which would suck.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    It’s definitely something to consider. It only makes sense that Google will continue to take advantage of this large user base as much as they can. Who can blame them really?

  • Alan Needham

    What I fear most from what you describe is the homogenization of content and accompanying censorship which would stifle if not totally wipe out the power of individual voices. It was inevitable that the wild west of the web would be tamed, but when one power rules supreme, we all suffer.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Yep…read 1984.

  • Judith

    Yikes! This to me is a scary scenario. What’s worse is that it’s actually happening now. Google and YouTube hold the potential to monopolize web content creation. If they can find competent writers and video creators then they are well on their way.