Google is once again in the news for a decision on China.
According to the news report, Google is considering a move to re-enter the China market, this time with a search engine that capitulates to government authorities.
With that as the backdrop, I thought it was worth dusting off a post from a few years ago that examined how Google communicated its decision to exit China in 2010.
Not a press event.
Not in a news release.
They shared this decision with the outside world via a blog post.
Google’s Decision Five Years Ago to Communicate Changes in China on Its Corporate Blog Signaled the Arrival of Owned Media.
On January 12, 2010, Google published a post with the austere headline, “A New Approach to China.”
One could make an argument that the China decision was one of the three biggest in Google’s history up there with the acquisition of Android and Larry Page replacing Eric Schmidt as CEO.
And they communicated the China news on the corporate blog.
The action gave street cred to corporate blogging and owned media as a whole.
Of course, millions of blogs already existed when Google published its China post. As far back as 2005, BusinessWeek devoted a cover feature to blogs that included the words:
“Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up … or catch you later.”
Turning to the narrative, nothing subtle about BusinessWeek’s opening salvo:
“Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak of information since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours.”
Still, corporations remained leery of the concept, leaving blogging to those wacky guys in marketing to write about new vegan dishes in the company cafeteria. In short, blogging wasn’t for serious stuff.
Google’s decision on January 12, 2005 forever altered this perception.
Of course digital media is always in a state of metamorphosis — shame on me for thinking high school biology was a waste of time — with many happy to characterize blogging as “so passé.”
My “favorite” was the USA Today story in 2012 which claimed companies were replacing their blogs with Facebook.
This is like saying builders are replacing wood with gravel. Yes, they’re both construction materials, but each has a distinctly different use.
Roughly one third of the Fortune 500, not exactly a group on the leading edge of digital media, maintains a corporate blog. If you’re a “glass is half empty” type, you’ll scream that this number is down from 2013, proving that the corporate blog is now on the downward slope.
I don’t think so.
The 2014 number simply reflects the reality that it’s hard work to execute a corporate blog that makes a difference. As a result, a handful of the Fortune 500 said “no mas” last year.
I’m sure what constitutes corporate blogging will take several twists and turns in the coming years. But the underlying fundamental, the ability to easily publish in a way that puts the content within reach of anyone with an Internet connection, is not going away.
It’s one of the best ways for a company to demonstrate thought leadership, show a “face” and put forth a position without depending on third-party media.
As Google proved five years ago.
A few years ago I asked several industry pundits to weigh on Google’s 2010 decision. Revealing to read how Bien Perez from the South China Morning Post begins his commentary:
“My first thought after reading the blog post back then was that Dave Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, was presenting his client’s case to a grand jury online. The first eight paragraphs of his post were carefully crafted, without passion or prejudice, to make sure this vast jury of jury of peers on the internet understood …”
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out in the coming days or weeks and if Google once again turns to its blog to control the narrative with an issue as nuanced as this one.