Sunday, January 28, 2007

Google, China and competition

It was an interesting week to watch Google's position on China. Co-founder Sergey Brin, garnered himself many column inches from Davos (check the FT here and Guardian here for examples) by expressing his regret at the way in which the company had entered China last year. Mea culpa all the way to the bank perhaps.

Two aspects of this week's coverage caught my attention and struck me as more generally applicable to media companies trying to find their way in China:

  1. The FT piece points out the fact that much of the crackdown on what is happening may be more protectionist than really censorious in nature. “I think a lot of these challenges and policing may be side effects of lobbying by local competitors there,” Brin says. Maybe. However, it has certainly increasingly come to my attention that media companies are 'shopping' each other to the authorities with increasing regularity as a way of gaining a small competitive advantage. It's a very dirty business there these days.
  2. Brin also admitted that bad decisions in China had damaged the company more generally. China can be a high profile market even for relatively small companies and mis-steps there will be seen as a sign of possible international weakness - vis eBay's "this is not a withdrawal from the market" withdrawal.

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