An unexpected treat came in the mail today: a 12" x 18" Sealed Air package with a return address from 1600 Amphitheater Parkway—Google's address in Mountain View, California. The package, which contained what looked like a box of chocolates with a wax seal, was actually Google's first official foray into the world of magazine publishing: Think Quartely, a business-to-business e-zine that went live online this morning. The company also sent out 1,750 paper editions to business executives, CEOs, and, apparently, magazine editors. We recieved No. 732.
The first edition's focus is on innovation. It includes a feature article on Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP Group, a Q & A with Dennis Crowley of Foursquare, and commentary from Nike's vice president of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Hannah Jones. There is also a fold-out infographic with the world's most innovative countries—by bulk of patents filed—and a list of sci-fi movies that "predicted" the future. (Admittedly, that last one sounds a little familiar to us at Inc.)
"Our aim with Think Quarterly is to regularly tap our homegrown visionaries, as well as heads of industry, innovators and experts from around the world, to lend their insights and analyses to our partners who are seeking to navigate the ever-changing digital world," Susan Wojcicki, Senior Vice President of Advertising, wrote on the company blog this morning.
To be sure, Think Quarterly is one big advertisement for Google. It is marketing collateral at its finest—elegant, creative, and heavily branded. As Rebecca Rosen noted in The Atlantic today, the magazine's pages are "dominated by advertising execs, its text peppered with McKinsey-speak ("we kept iterating"), and a feature story highlighting the good work Googlers are doing around the world." Natasha Singer, writing for The New York Times, put it even more bluntly: "the e-zine is designed as a business marketing vehicle, promoting Google's insights and analyses of consumer behavior to clients like digital advertisers and publishers." It's also, we imagine, extremely expensive, and generates little, if any, returns.
But if you can look past the marketing scheme in play, you'll find a genuinely creative, cool, and yes, innovative product: the magazine's cover is magnetic, its first flyleaf is a heat-sensitive Technicolored sheet of paper, and the table of contents is one massive flow chart. It even smells good, according to one Inc. staffer.
For some small business owners and executives, Think Quarterly may indeed offer genuine insight into innovation and management theory. For others, the e-zine offers a great example of creative advertising (if budgets didn't matter).
As one blogger, Frank Reed, put it: "They are doing everything else these days so why not?"
You can check it out for yourself online here.