I’ve found it fascinating reading "Googled: The End of the World as We Know It," a 2009 book by Ken Auletta, an author and journalist perhaps best-known for penning the "Annals of Communications" column for The New Yorker since 1992. What Auletta does so well in reporting on the rise of Google is to avoid the usual tack of simply telling a corporate narrative, and instead, not only tells truly interesting anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories, but also supplies the intelligent questions and analysis that make the book a very worthwhile read.
Most of all, he puts the story of Google’s development into a very understandable context, without the usual hype. Particularly illuminating is the first chapter, "Messing with the Magic," in which Auletta relates the story of a visit in June 2003 by Mel Karmazin, the CEO of Viacom, to the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Like virtually everyone else in the media and communications, Karmazin was well aware of the already-rocketing success of Google at that point; and he had asked for an exploratory meeting with Google uber-leaders Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt. The bottom-line question: did an "old media" corporation like Viacom and a new media whiz-kid company like Google have something of value to offer to each other?
As it turns out, Karmazin found it nearly impossible to get his head around the reality of Google’s business model, particularly the way in which it used a combination of information technology and metrics-based viewership accounting to automate new ways to determine advertising rates, something essentially nonexistent in the old media world.
Indeed, Auletta notes that, "[U]nlike traditional analog media companies, which can’t measure the effectiveness of their advertising, Google offered each advertiser a free tool: Google Analytics, which allowed the advertiser to track day by day, hour by hour, the number of clicks and sales, the traffic produced by the keywords chosen, the conversion rate from click to sale—in sum, the overall effectiveness of an ad," along with "a tantalizing trove of data" that has been giving advertisers levels and types of data never before available in any systematic fashion. Not surprisingly, all this has made Google what Auletta calls a true "disrupter" company, one that has changed paradigms of concepts and activity. Yet as always, early on, it takes people a while to understand that fundamental change has occurred when a disruptive force comes into any field.
It’s not difficult to see parallels between the rise of Google and some of the paradigm shifts taking place in healthcare these days. In fact, paradigm shifts are taking place all across healthcare right now. There’s the shift away from a sole focus on one physician and one patient and towards a broader, population health management, perspective; from "one-off" attempts at tackling specific patient safety and care quality problems, to systematic approaches that apply formal performance improvement methodologies to organization-wide performance; from departmental image and data storage solutions to enterprise-wide, vendor-neutral repository solutions; and so on.
You can read in detail about these paradigm shifts in this issue’s Top Ten Tech Trends cover story package. Our editorial team has interviewed industry thought-leaders and pioneering healthcare leaders to learn their perspectives on the paradigm shifts sweeping us all into the future. Given all that has happened in the last several years, it’s both exciting and bracing to ponder what could take place in the next several. Keep your hats on, readers! It won’t be "the end of the world," but it will certainly be a doorway to an emerging new one.