• 03.24.11

Does Google’s Magazine Make It a Media Company?

Aha! Google is caught with ink on its hands. Then Google *must* be a media company after all, right? The truth is not that simple.

Does Google’s Magazine Make It a Media Company?

Is David Carr, MediaBistro, and others think so. The most recent piece of evidence in the effort to out Google as a media giant in search (and advertising) monster’s clothing is a magazine that has been “quietly” launched in the U.K. this week.


The magazine, called Think Quarterly, has chosen “data” to be the subject of its first themed issue. The issue, which you can see online here, is elegantly designed by a group called “The Church of London.” There’s a visual history of data capture, a look at the top ten places for “sexy” data online, and an interview with Google’s chief economist Hal Varian–the same Hal Varian who recently protested to Carr, for his New York Times column, “We are in the business of media distribution, but I don’t think that we would be very good at media creation…I think it’s one thing that we have astutely avoided in the last 12 years…the media business is a tough business.”

Now that Varian has been caught red-handed, granting an exclusive interview to a Google-produced magazine, has he disproven himself?

Not quite. The magazine, with its elaborate design and intriguing articles, is high quality, and is technically available to anyone with an internet connection. But it can’t really be said to be a huge media gambit–nothing, certainly, on the order of, say, acquiring Next New Networks. The print edition of the magazine isn’t exactly something you’ll be seeing on the newsstands of Picadilly Circus. (“Morning, mate. I’ll have a copy of The Daily Mirror–no, no, scratch that, make it a copy of Think Quarterly.“) The print magazine, in fact, had a very limited, and very targeted, run. A Google spokesperson in the U.K. tells Fast Company: “Like most companies we regularly communicate with our business customers via email newsletters, updates on our official blogs, and printed materials. This short book about data was sent to 1,500 of our U.K. partners and advertisers. There are only a limited number of copies, and they aren’t for sale or designed for anyone other than our partners.”

Google may–or may not–be becoming a media company. As of now, Think Quarterly isn’t the most compelling bit of evidence to marshall when making the case that it is. It’s really just a marketing document.

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Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Google

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.