Book Review: What Would Google Do?

I’m almost done listening to the Audible version of Jeff Jarvis’ new book, What Would Google Do?  I’ve long been a reader of Jeff’s Buzzmachine blog, and so had eagerly anticipated his book. 

I wasn’t disappointed.

As a former media critic for People and the founding publisher of Entertainment Weekly, Jeff knows “old media” and has been thinking in public on his blog for several years about newspapers and other mainstream media can adapt to the realities of the Internet age. In WWGD?, he applies the new rules he’s observed to various other industries as well. I haven’t gotten to his recommendations for health care yet. That might deserve a separate post.

(As an aside, check out Jeff’s post on Buzzmachine today, in which he estimates that today’s print edition of the New York Times is $2.6 million short of the paper’s target for display ad revenue. That’s for a single day! And the Times reports today that the Boston Globe is losing $85 million a year.)

I could try to do an extended review of WWGD?, but in keeping with Jeff’s admonition to “Do what you do best, and link to the rest” I have embedded the summary PowerPoint Jeff had uploaded to Slideshare…


…and also a video of Jeff’s speech about WWGD? to Google employees:

Finally, for a 30-day sampler of Jeff’s WWGD? thoughts, read these posts on Buzzmachine.

If we had a required reading list for SMUGgles, What Would Google Do? would be on it. But you can get a good feel for some of Jeff’s main ideas through the resources linked above. If you want to buy the book, you can get it below:

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: What Would Google Do?

  1. Agreed, Lee – great book. It’s one of those books that opens the mind.
    For me, it exposed some strategic possibilities for my work and my medical society that I had not thought about before. I find myself quoting from it unconsciously!

  2. I kind of think of book reviews telling me the opinion of the reviewer, not just a PR vehicle for the book. Your comment, “I could try to do an extended review of WWGD?, but in keeping with Jeff’s admonition to “Do what you do best, and link to the rest” I have embedded the summary PowerPoint Jeff had uploaded to Slideshare…” – is the exact opposite of what I look for in a review.

    Jarvis’ book has a lot of interesting, challenging and insightful stuff. But, it has an equal or greater amount of twaddle, repetition and goofiness. That’s kind of true of most books about the current explosive situation in the media and information world today. It’s hard to hit the moving target. Jarvis tries nicely – but he misses as often as he hits.

    I’d also point out that his continuous hyping of Google’s AdSense program is just egregious. Product placement in books – ugh!

    I think it’s important for all of us to point out what we think is insightful and what we think is twaddle. That’s the book reviewers job, I think. “But, heck, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong” – as Dennis Miller says.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Frank and Michael. I expect I will be delving into the subject matter Jarvis raises in some future posts, and interacting with what I see as some of the most relevant points. I think what he has to say about education is particularly good, and very much in keeping with the SMUG philosophy, that much of education is too formalized and should instead be just-in-time, hands-on, enabling people to learn what’s interesting to them (or needed to grow their competencies), instead of focusing on accreditation.

    For example (and this is one place Jarvis gets it right), the “cash cow in the coal mine” for the higher education establishment is on-campus, in-person courses. It’s frankly ridiculous that established colleges and universities charge the same for distance education as on-campus. But they don’t want to “cannibalize” the existing programs.

    OK, this is getting way beyond comment length. It will be the core of a future post.

    One other point though: if I were writing a book review for a newspaper or magazine, you’re right that what I have said in this post wouldn’t pass muster. But as a Blogger/Chancellor my role is to highlight interesting, thought-provoking material. So instead of doing a point-by-point review of some of Jarvis’ main points, I linked to what he said, in his own words. Then SMUGgles can decide whether the book is worth buying. And maybe they’ll see enough that they will decide it’s not worth buying the book, because they already have enough of the basic content.

    In future posts, I’ll be sharing some more of the thoughts Jarvis provoked in me (and my disagreements with him.)

    I’m glad we got connected on Twitter, and look forward to following your blog as well.

  4. Hi Lee,

    I’m thinking that I challenged you on the content part of your review vs. the PR part because I’m kind of questioning myself. We’ve always gone by our mother’s advice, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it” – when it comes to our blog. It’s pretty positive. So, I’m wondering if we should be more challenging in what we write.

    Here’s a link to a book review we wrote some time ago about Suzi Pomerantz. I think it’s very positive, but offers independent information about what we thought about the book – new information and quotes that the reader can’t get from the book. That’s what I look for in a book review – something that the reviewer adds, and not just a PR piece.

    Here’s the link –

    Thanks for continuing the conversation about this.

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