I’ve been taking a class on

The title goes 

Understanding Media by Understanding Google !


Google Inc. is one of the key success stories of the Internet era. The company has expanded beyond its original search business through innovation and acquisition to touch the lives of nearly every person who lives life online. Americans spend more than 3,400 hours per year using consumer media, the field where Google’s impact is most profound, and citizens of the world increasingly must understand what the company has wrought not only to manage their offline and online environments, but also to interact and engage successfully with anyone in their professional and personal lives.

In this course from the Medill School at Northwestern University, you will learn how to understand the tactics that modern media companies, journalists, marketers, politicians, technologists, and social networks are using to reach you and affect your behavior. You will learn how to adopt strategies that put them on an even footing with these entities in achieving your own communications goals. Together, we will:

  • think about, react to, and write about half a dozen important books about Google; 
  • read a sampling of newspaper and magazine reportage from Google’s entire history;
  • monitor news sites and specialized blogs about the company and its competitors;
  • take note of our own usage of Google and other online resources; and
  • learn how to anticipate the future impact of the company and its competitors on information consumption, creation, and distribution.

The books in question include the following (unless otherwise noted the links are to print editions, from which you can easily navigate to the e-book versions if you desire): 

You are strongly encouraged, but not required, to purchase these books. You will see that the detailed syllabus below contains substantial additional material. 

You may note that there may be fewer video lectures in this course than in some online classes you have taken. This design decision was made to give you the time to read and view the background material that is contained in the detailed week-by-week syllabus, covering our important topics in far more depth than we could do in even twice the number of lectures and interviews included. You also will be expected to post in the Coursera discussion forums; the details are contained in the course grading policy.


Weekly themes and assignment deadlines


  1. The Age of Google; Google and Search (Week of 9/16)

    Assessment, due Sept. 30: Quiz 1. The deadline is longer than others so that late enrollees have a chance to catch up.

  2. Google and News; Google and Books (Week of 9/23)

    Assessments, due Sept. 30: Quiz 2, Peer-Graded Homework 1. Peer grading deadline is Oct. 7 at 9 a.m. CDT (UTC -0500).

  3. Google and Advertising (Week of 9/30)

    Assessments, due Oct. 7: Quiz 3 (due 6 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500); Peer-Graded Homework 2 (due 9 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500). Peer grading deadline is Oct. 14 at 9 a.m. CDT (UTC -0500).

  4. Google and Video (Week of 10/7)

    Assessments, due Oct. 14: Quiz 4 (6 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500), Peer-Graded Homework 3 (due 9 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500). Peer grading deadline is Oct. 21 at 9 a.m. CDT (UTC -0500).

  5. Google and Mobile (Week of 10/14)

    Assessmentsdue Oct. 21: Quiz 5 (6 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500), Peer-Graded Homework 4 (due 9 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500). Peer grading deadline is Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. CDT (UTC -0500).

  6. Google and Social; Google and Privacy (Week of 10/21)

    Assessments, due Oct. 28: Quiz 6 (6 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500), Peer-Graded Homework 5 (due 9 a.m. CDT/UTC -0500). Peer grading deadline is Nov. 4 at 9 a.m. CDT (UTC -0500), and grades will be issued shortly thereafter.

Assigned readings and resources, week by week


Week of Sept. 16, 2013

Week 1, Part I: The Age of Google

Learning objectives:


  • Learn about Google’s broad impact on media 
  • Examine varying points of view
  • Analyze the company’s possible motivations for past, present, and future choices

Readings for class

Week 1, Part II: Google and Search

Learning objectives:


  • Learn the history of Web search  
  • Learn how search works at Google today and, in particular, how it is personalized
  • Analyze the impact of Google’s search algorithms on media and on the Web itself 

Readings and videos for class:  

Week of Sept. 23, 2013

Week 2, Part I: Google and the News

Learning objectives:

  • Learn how Google got interested in news
  • Learn about its impact on the news business, on news consumption, and on the profitability of news companies
  • Analyze potential avenues through which media companies are asking consumers to pay for news online

Readings for class:


Week 2, Part II: Google and Books

Learning objectives:

  • Learn why Google both gained support for and met opposition to its Books project
  • Analyze its motives and the project’s impact on publishers, authors, and scholars
  • Analyze the potential for success of a competing entity, the Digital Public Library of America

Readings and videos for class

Week of Sept. 30, 2013

Week 3: Google and Advertising

Learning objectives:

  • Learn how and why Google started selling advertising and how its methods affected advertisers and consumers
  • Learn how search advertising is sold, bought, and placed
  • Learn how the measurability and transparency of Google’s Internet ad model affected the traditional media model
  • Learn how and why advertisers and media companies collect personal data online
  • Analyze the practices and motives of Internet media companies in using the data they have collected

Readings and videos for class:  

Week of Oct. 7, 2013

Week 4: Google and Video

Learning objectives:

  • Learn how and why Google entered and then scaled up the video business through YouTube
  • Learn about the intersection of video and search
  • Analyze the impact of YouTube on newsgathering, dissemination, consumption, and on the news itself
  • Analyze YouTube’s potential for revenue growth through consumer payment

Readings and videos for class


Week of Oct. 14, 2013

Week 5: Google and Mobile

Learning objectives:

  • Learn about the size, scope, and impact of smartphones on information consumption
  • Learn about the implications of distraction for media companies and consumers
  • Learn about potential future mobile computing technologies
  • Analyze the potential impact of “wearable” computing on media and information consumption

Readings and videos for class

Week of Oct. 21, 2013

Week 6, Part I: Google and Social

Learning objectives:

  • Learn about the evolution of social media, particularly in relationship to the news media
  • Learn the differences (some serious, some less so) among several important social media networks
  • Learn the differences between social network users and search engine users
  • Analyze how Google’s long and uneven history in social media has affected its strategies
  • Analyze the goals of Google+ and its intersection with Google’s other media offerings

Readings for class:  

Week 6, Part II: Google and Privacy

Learning objectives:

  • Learn several definitions of what online privacy is and isn’t
  • Learn why Google’s StreetView project raised privacy concerns in several parts of the world
  • Learn how personal data is being used to shape U.S. politics at the individual-voter level
  • Learn about emerging technologies in data gathering and personal identification
  • Analyze the potential uses and misuses of personally identifiable data by companies, individuals, and governments
  • Analyze the potential implications of a “consumer privacy bill of rights”

Readings and videos for class: