Google's Eric Schmidt: What I Read

The Google CEO dishes on his daily reading habits

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Google CEO Eric Schmidt who transitions to executive chairman of Google next month.

What I read varies widely based on what kind of information I’m looking for at the time.

I check Google News a lot, and I have Google alerts set up for topics I’m especially interested in—like tech generally, or obviously Google.

I have several magazine subscriptions and read The Economist, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair on a regular basis.

In terms of books, I mostly read non-fiction. I don’t use an e-reader—I stick to paper and ink. The most recent non-fiction book I read is Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. I do sometimes read fiction; like many people out there, I recently read the Millennium seriesThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so forth—by Stieg Larsson.

TechCrunch is a good place to get breaking tech news or Silicon Valley rumors, so I check that frequently to see what they’re up to. I also read a variety of more specialized websites and blogs, which I usually find through Google search.

I believe in the power of information—the world is a better place when more information is available to more and more people; it’s crucial to a functioning democracy. For me, there’s no better place to get accurate, fresh information—well-reported information—than a newspaper. I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day, both the paper edition and the web edition (depending on where I am and how much time I have) because there’s no better way to learn what you need to know for your day.

People ask me a lot about the crisis in the newspaper industry. The truth is I see now as a moment of tremendous opportunity in this industry—there are so many possible places where we can unite technology with the great reporting and experience that already exist out there to come out of this better than ever. I don’t have all the answers but I have some ideas: you could get news that is more personalized to you, so you can find stories that you’re interested in—in less time and without having to filter through the information you don’t want. So that when you turn to get your news you find that the news source “knows” what you like and you don’t have to start over each day. You can customize for where and how you’re getting the information—on your phone or your tablet, or desktop, or however you choose to get it. You could use machine translation to translate news from a paper on the other side of the world so you can get a different perspective on an issue.

Of course I think that part of the way to pay for all of this great content is with advertising—both text ads like those that Google started with and display ads, so you can add in that other piece to the puzzle. But when you put all these things together—personalized news, wherever you want it, in whatever language you want it, with your friends’ recommendations or what have you—you find that this is all something that is really worth paying for. So you might have a subscription or something like a “freemium” model where you get some of it for free or pay small amounts for the rest. With some combination of paid content and ads, you can move towards a thriving business model.

In fact, to help publishers who choose to charge for their digital content, we introduced a new service called Google One Pass in February. With it, publishers can set up different payment models and experiment with what works for them. They can also authenticate existing print subscribers and give them access to free digital content on their websites or through their mobile apps. Experimentation is really important and we’re hoping this helps publishers discover new ways of making money for the valuable content they’re producing.

We’ve been thinking about all this at Google for a long time, of course, because this is something that is really important to me and to the whole company: making sure that newspapers and quality journalism can take advantage of the Internet and other technology and thrive, because they really are the fourth estate and are so crucial to modern democracy.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.