Google recently took an unassuming leap into publishing -- custom publishing, at least -- with a new glossy called Think Quarterly, a 62-page, perfect-bound title targeted to its business partners in the U.K. Now it appears that Google is ready to launch a U.S. edition as well.
One of the editors of the magazine, Holly Finn, is listed as a former editor of the Financial Times and the current editor of Think Quarterly's U.S. edition. Most of the other writers appear to be based in the U.K., such as Simon Rogers, an editor at the Guardian who contributed an article on Vodafone CEO Guy Laurence.
Despite the project's limited scope, it will be fascinating to see what the search company and Google News operator turns out when it's time to produce its own content.
Shooing away claims the search titan is now a media company, Google described Think Quarterly as a "marketing publication," a depiction that seems to fit given that it was put together by creative agency Church of London and was distributed to Google's U.K. partners.
"Like most companies, Google regularly communicates with our business customers via email newsletters, updates on our official blogs, and printed materials," Think Quarterly explains in its online version. "On this occasion, we've sent a short book about data, called Think Quarterly, to a small number of our UK partners and advertisers. ... We're flattered by the positive reaction but have no plans to start selling copies! Although Think Quarterly remains firmly aimed at Google's partners and advertisers, if you're interested in the subject of data then please feel free to read on ..."
A spokesman for Google declined to comment.
While the Silicon Valley giant is famous for clinging to its technology roots, and as modest as Think Quarterly is, it's the first time that Google has paid for and produced original content beyond its company blog posts -- and not simply aggregated it from elsewhere.
The counterargument is that Think Quarterly is just a brochure for the company, marketing material to entice and converse with its clients. While an article featuring Google economist Hal Varian may fall under that rubric, a lengthy and fairly in-depth piece on Mr. Laurence, the chief executive of one of Europe's biggest companies, falls much closer to the journalism side of the equation. In truth, it can't quite claim to be one or the other, though some mix of the two may be a more apt descriptor.
No matter which way you describe this exercise in custom publishing, Google is a media company, and it always has been. A business built on selling advertising to an audience is the essence of any media enterprise, regardless of whether you're paying to print words onto pulp.