‘Google Visit Raised a Lot of ‘What Ifs?’ for IM Group’

Energy was high today as the #LMAIM group boarded our bus to my favorite visit of the week, Google. We met with a group of deeply talented and committed “Googlers” to discuss a variety of topics: News Lab, machine learning, cultivating a culture of innovation, and Google Assistant.  For the Innovation Mission participants, each session raised a lot of “What Ifs?”.

What if Google committed to the sustainability of news worldwide?

One of our largest “ah-ha” moments was the deep commitment Google has made, company-wide, to empower and drive the sustainability of journalism. “News is important to us,” shared Google Senior Manager Global Partnerships David Brooks. “News is one of our top six OKR goals companywide.” Today Google drives 10 billion clicks-per-month to news sites, and more than 5 million hours of news video are watched daily on YouTube. The company launched the Google News Lab in 2015, and continues to devote resources to this effort. As digital consumption of news continues to change, they are striving to support the change, assist with data-driven journalism and find opportunities to use their assets to facilitate storytelling. “The fact that this is a priority at the company-wide level speaks volumes,” said Second Street CEO and IM participant Matt Coen, and the entire IM group agreed with this.

Google’s mission is to drive digital sustainability for news organizations via:

  • Content creation (building tools and educational programs)
  • Distribution
  • Monetization
  • Data (building tools to assist publishers in storing, analyzing and creating actionable insights based on their data)

What if media sites decreased page-load-time?

The short answer that surprised everyone in the room is that publishers are losing “billions of dollars” in ad revenue by having longer page-loads due to abandonment, particularly on mobile. “The industry simply must become committed to decreasing page-load-time and creating a cleaner user-experience,” said LMA President and IM organizer Nancy Lane. Google continues to invest in AMP, and Brooks advised IM participants, “Media companies need to have someone on their staffs who is participating in the AMP project at a developer level. It needs to be a priority if you believe in the open Web.”

What if recruitment was your most important job?

Google Director of Global Partnerships Jason Washing shared with the team that their philosophy is that hiring is the most important thing leaders can do. Google practices a “Rule of Four” ­– for every hire they have a hiring committee of four people. Three that have direct insight or ownership over what the employee role does and one person from a totally unrelated part of the company. The fourth person is there to consider if this candidate is good for Google. They look for:

  • General cognitive-ability
  • Role-related knowledge
  • Leadership capacity
  • “Googleyness”

What if a manager worked for their team vs. their team working for them?

Once each year, Google employees complete a survey about the effectiveness of their manager. This can be given anonymously, and measures approximately 35 different points. “Our philosophy is that manager’s work for their teams, not the other way around,” shared Washing, along with the following points pictured below on what makes a great manager.











What if media companies shared Google’s mandate: creating a good user-experience above all else?

The mandate at Google is to create a good user experience above all else, it drives decision-making and prioritization for the efforts of teams. And, for media leaders that want to truly transform their companies, we all need to think about how we would do things differently if we created a good user-experience above all else. How would it change your decision-making? How would you present news and information? What advertiser experiences would you create? What products would you develop?

A truly inspiring visit, and much more information will be contained in the full report created by the Local Media Foundation. For me personally, one of my key takeaways is to keep asking the tough questions, the “What Ifs?”, to make sure that I continue to innovate and transform our models and day-to-day work.