Google Publishes, No Matter What It Says

Last Updated Jul 3, 2008 3:04 PM EDT

Google scores again: An Internet animation series by Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, to syndicate through Google's new Content Network.
In an interview, he described the installments as "animated versions of the one-frame cartoons you might see in The New Yorker, only edgier."
So it has YouTube, Internet animation, news, books, real-time information â€" and yet, Google is adamant that it is not a publisher. Check the dictionary for a moment for a definition of publishing:
the business or profession of the commercial production and issuance of literature, information, musical scores or sometimes recordings, or art
Production and issuance, not creation. Publishing is making content - your own or another's -available to the public. Do book publishers create their own content? No, they license it. Music labels obtain recorded performances from musicians. Many magazines license articles from freelance writers. From this traditional view, Google publishes.

I think Google avoids the publishing sobriquet for three reasons. Let's take the most trivial first. High tech stocks tend to get better treatment investors than publishers, so it's in Google's financial interest to stay at arm's length from an industry in disfavor.

Next is that others media companies become nervous â€" litigious, even. Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows that he has to bridge that gap.

"There is a sea change from one model to another. Many of the criticisms I see seem to be merely about the change, and Google happens to be the messenger," Schmidt said. "Those changes are going to occur independently."
Reason number three, exactly. The sea change in this case is a shift in the definition of publishing, or at least in its perception. Publishers have thrashed about, trying to figure out what they are. If you were Google, would you want to clue them in on a business model that could be wildly successful?

Further reading: BNET's advertising blogger Jake Swearingen examined the MacFarlane-Google partnership a few days ago.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.