Susan Wojcicki

Susan Wojcicki is a central player in the origin story of Google. In 1998 she rented her Menlo Park garage to Sergey Brin and Larry Page to start the company. She became Google’s 16th employee and now, as the head of the company’s advertising products, she brought in $43.7 billion last year – 95 percent of Google’s revenue. As part of our First Person series profiling notable leaders in the Bay Area, we talk with Susan Wojcicki about the changing world of digital advertising, and about raising four children and a flock of chickens while holding one of the most powerful business positions in the world.

Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president in charge of Google's Advertising Products

  • Maximus

    Can your guest please explain why Google has got active duty US military working at their campus? I would like to know exactly what they are doing, for instance whether these military personnel are being employed to spy on Americans, or helping to censor Internet search results as Google is known to have done in recent years. If their work is classified, then why would a public company be collaborating with the military? Does the leadership of Google have fascist leanings that would motivate this collaboration?

  • geraldfnord

    Ask her if more advertising is really a good thing; I have spent time with advertising people, and for the most part they view the targets—marks to be fleeced, and held in contempt for being vulnerable so. And it is largely due to the multiplication of ‘needs’ driven by ads and marketing that has prevented our enjoying the leisure about which some were _worried_ back in the 60s.

    Advertising and marketing gets people to get people to spend money, which translates into chunks of the finite, sole, life they’ll ever have, by means other than neocortex-friendly, rational, argument, instead hacking our status/sex/power programming and degrading the ability to make reasonable choices from good data, bad for a democracy….

    (I am not faulting her and Google for making a their way as best they can while minimising _overt_ evil, but in effect of hey’re helping people do bad thing _better_.) (But I, sitting in this nice house on lands obtained non-consensually centuries back, am also a sinner.)

    • sstanley


      • thucy

        I believe the commenter meant “sole” as in “one and only”.

  • thucy

    cnn on Google’s garage mythos:

    “The story of Larry Page and Sergey Brin founding Google in a Menlo Park garage is so well-known that the company bought the garage in 2006 as a historical artifact.

    “History, though, tells a somewhat different story. By the time they set up shop in the garage, Page and Brin had been running Google for two years and had obtained about $1 million in startup capital. The garage move was made in part to help out a friend who needed help paying her mortgage, and was also an homage to Hewlett-Packard’s own beginnings.

    “These “founded in a garage” stories are ubiquitous in America because they indicate that “regardless of how humble your beginnings are, you can turn something into an immense success story if you work hard,” Dartmouth business professor Pino Audia, who’s extensively studied the garage myth, told NPR in 2009.

    The truth, he says, is that even self-starters usually begin on the corporate ladder…”

  • thucy

    since cnn reports that at the time of the garage rental, google already had a million dollars in start-up money, why did they need to rent a garage?

    Because they were strategically basing their founding myth on Hewlett-Packard’s genuinely humble origins?

    I like Google, but if they can’t tell the truth about their basic origins, what else will they lie about?

    Why can’t host ask about 22.5 million in FTC fines levied against Google for illegally placing cookies in Apple’a browser?

    • thucy

      My beef at this point isn’t so much Google, but the flaccid mush that currently passes for reporting on KQED. On the heels of yesterday’s toothless fellating of Rose Pak by Michael Krasny (and you kind of can’t blame him for that, she’s terrifying), today’s utterly flaccid interview of Wojcicki should announce to listeners that KQED’s Forum has finally abandoned interviewing subjects in any real sense in favor of the infomercial format.

      • Fay Nissenbaum

        Well said! Are you listening, KQED Forum producers?

  • thucy

    whoa – Dave! you almost got to an actual question on user choice! Why not go full throttle and ask why what Google does in US is not legal in Europe?

  • thucy
  • thucy

    Do Google’s contributions to KQED preclude you from asking her about 22.5 million in FTC fines levied against Google?
    “The ruling comes 10 weeks after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined Google $22.5 million—the biggest fine in the agency’s history—to settle charges that it breached privacy protections on Apple’s Safari Internet browser. The FTC said Google illegally planted cookies in Safari, bypassing Apple privacy settings so that Google could track users’ browsing behavior.”

    • thucy

      KQED: please answer the questions:
      1) What funding have you derived through Google, and
      2) How did that funding impact your decision to treat an interview subject as an opportunity for an infomercial?

  • thucy

    wait – why was my question about Google contributions to KQED and the softball nature of this interview deleted?

    • thucy

      thank you for reinstating my prior comment. KQED doesn’t just benefit from listener donations – it’s also obliged to fulfill its “public service” mandate. And that includes not silencing its critics.

  • jamiebronson

    Is this just an advertisement for Google? Where are the hard hitting questions about the illegal tracking of users (subverting the Safari browser settings), WIFI scanning, European regulators, etc.?

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    How is a small business selling cupcakes, for example, to appear on the first page of google’s search results?

    What would it cost, hypothetically?

    • jamiebronson

      There are two ways. The first one is through organic SEO. Which means optimizing your site to show up on the first page. This is too complicated to explain in a short forum post. The second method is paid search. Paid search shows up at the very top of the page as a sponsored listing or on the right hand side. These are called adwords. The cost is based on a bidding system. Take for example there are 6 paid listings to the right of the organic results. The ad at the top of the paid listing will be more expensive than the 6th result. But again, its based on bidding. Cost is highly variable depending on many factors but could be anywhere from 25 cents up.

  • trevor

    I know this person can’t be under 30, but she sure sounds it.
    “SO ….”, “SO ….”, “SO ….” is how she begins her answers.
    Raises her tone on words in the middle of sentences and at the end of sentences even though she’s not asking questions.
    I guess this is the way more and more people are going to be speaking going forward — even the highest-level executives at the biggest companies in the world. What a shame.

    • jamiebronson

      agree but I thought she was 22. She ends every sentence with a question.

      • thucy

        that’s strategic – if you sound inexperienced, then in the apparently VERY UNLIKELY case that KQED asks you a hard-hitting question, you can dissemble and it will look like you’re merely incompetent

        • Maximus

          I agree. She’s avoiding sounding like an authority as an evasion tactic.

  • disqus_pdpryDozxn

    During this interview you guys mention a book that a woman writes encouraging young women to succeed and set goals high. What is the title of that book?

  • bcowart

    Exactly my feelings. I just scanned the comments here as I booted up my computer to complain about this interview/interviewee. I see I am not alone. What a bunch of softballs Dave Iverson pitched Susan. Maybe it’s because David isn’t all that tech-savvy? Nobody can know everything, and in general I like Dave’s work. But as an author of over 40 trade-books about computing starting in the ’80s, watching all of this technology develop, I want a little pithier point and counterpoint in an interview with a monolith such as Google.

    Susan’s feet needed to be held a bit closer to the fire, especially when she dissembled in response to questions about what Google aggregates in the way of personal information and how they capitalize on it. There is growing cognitive dissonance the world over, about Google. We hear ‘Do no harm’ touted by Google as their motto, yet there is no easy way to check on what, in fact, Google knows about us and what they are doing with that knowledge. Staying true to their motto may have been easier in the early days, but that is not today’s Google. This is a $220 billion-dollar company who generated $40b in consolidated revenue last year. We are no talking about a quirky startup in Silicon Valley. Estimates are that 75% of that came from their ‘search’ tools.

    Susan mentioned that Google values transparency. Transparency is good. So, how about a password-protected button that a Google user could click that would reveal all of the info Google has accumulated about him/her? (We can already do this to determine our credit score, for example, before applying for a mortgage.) The listing could allow the user to ‘flush the cache’ of data, or turn off specific pieces of it. This would be a natural extension of what users can erase from their browser, e.g. cookies, history, bookmarks, etc.

    Ultimately, this discussion begs two questions: Who owns our personal habits, shopping tendencies, lifestyle choices, dreams and desires, dating habits, medical conditions, etc, and how much privacy are we willing to relinquish in exchange for our ever-deepening Internet lives?

    • Fay Nissenbaum

      I like that alot – a radio button to flush collected data.

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