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Eric Schmidt joins board of weighty biz journal The Economist

Googler latest web exec to hanker after a hack's life

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Eric Schmidt has joined the board of The Economist Group for a three-year run after a shareholder vote, the group has announced.

Technology is supposed to be destroying the traditional media, but tech gurus can't seem to keep their mitts off the sector. Google's Schmidt is just the latest to get involved with the old guard, following Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who slurped up the Washington Post for $250m and eBay's Pierre Omidyar, who has invested in a new media venture with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian hack made famous for his stories about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Omidyar said when announcing the venture last month that he had looked into buying the Washington Post himself, but decided to go for "something entirely new".

"I developed an interest in supporting independent journalists in a way that leverages their work to the greatest extent possible, all in support of the public interest. And, I want to find ways to convert mainstream readers into engaged citizens," he said, rather ambitiously.

Schmidt hasn't laid out his plans, if any, for his tenure at the Economist Group, which runs the magazine and a research arm, but he has said in the past that Google and newspapers could help each other.

Critics have accused the Chocolate Factory of being a traditional media killer, hoovering up content which belongs to others for presentation in its search results and, by extension, nicking their traffic.

But Schmidt has always denied that Google is in any way responsible for the decline of newspapers, insisting in a Wall Street Journal editorial that the advertising firm is actually "a great source of promotion".

"It's understandable to look to find someone else to blame. But as Rupert Murdoch has said, it is complacency caused by past monopolies, not technology, that has been the real threat to the news industry," he wrote back in 2009.

"We want to work with publishers to help them build bigger audiences, better engage readers, and make more money," he added. ®

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