By Carl Howe
In honor of Google's (GOOG) stock price passing the $600 per share market Monday, Om Malik has a fun, tongue-in-cheek piece noting what Google's market capitalization of $188 billion could buy. But in the process of clucking over the fact that Google could buy the country of Ireland (the image of Larry and Sergey being the royal leprechauns was priceless), the following bullet point struck me as actually being a viable opportunity:
A whole lotta media companies: the New York Times Co. (NYT) ($2.86 billion), Reuters (RTRSY) ($16.5 billion), CBS (CBS) ($23 billion), Viacom (VIA) ($28 billion), News Corp. (NWS.A), ($71.5 billion) and Yahoo (YHOO) ($35 billion) — with money left over for buying Facebook at Zuckbuck-prices.
To mis-quote Shania Twain, it wouldn't be so bad for Google to start thinking, "That's some fine looking real-estate, and I'm gonna get me some land."
Want the Viacom copyright suit to go away? Buy the company. Want to find a network outlet for YouTube videos? Rupert Murdoch's Fox (NWS) network already is all reality TV, all the time, so why not just buy the whole kit and caboodle and remake it into YouTube cable? Oh, and if you do that deal, we'll throw in a nice newspaper business, complete with subscription-based Web site with it as a bonus: the Wall Street Journal. Now how much would you pay?
Like OM, I'm going over the top here, but no one should be discounting Google's influence on the media and advertising business any more. In the relentless pursuit of shrinking consumer attention, Google has that attention, while the old media companies like newspapers, TV, and magazines are losing it. And because it is the consumer's trusted guide to almost any type of content and gets advertising revenue for doing so, Google is poised to influence and capitalize on media in a way we haven't seen in more than 50 years. And Google doesn't need to buy those media companies to do so -- it simply needs to become their best advertising customer. And because media companies are on the financial ropes nowadays, being a media company's largest customer will buy almost as much influence as owning the company.
All that said, there would be a certain cache to Google buying the New York Times. If nothing else, I'd enjoy seeing what they could do with black Gothic type masthead on the Times. A little Google color might put some life back in that old gray lady.
UPDATE: if you want to see what rarefied company Google's market cap shares, you can see a nice ranking here based on Monday's prices. Of course, today, it could be all different.
Full disclosure: The author owns some Google stock.