The reasons you didn’t know Google has a think tank

After writing my preview piece on Google’s new think tank, Google Ideas, and its effort to help with the de-radicalization of youth in Dublin this week, many e-mail messages started rolling in with questions. Tweets, too. Some messages have gone so far to say that the media failed in writing about Google Ideas. To be fair, some of us wrote what little there was to go on, but here are four reasons you may not have heard about Google Ideas.

1) There’s no Web site. Most of us, if we hear about something, we turn to the web--we “Google it”--to learn more. But that wasn’t possible with Google Ideas, which has not had a Web site--and still doesn’t. Some might call that strange for anIinternet company. It has, however, just launched a website for the summit.

2) Google Ideas isn’t located in the home of think tanks, Washington, D.C. Nor is it housed in its own building with an ultra-visible awning. Instead, Google Ideas has been able to go under the radar because it’s not among what many would consider to be its main constituency and it’s somewhat guarded in the main Google offices in the Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

3) With so much Google news, it would have been easy to miss this story. What with investigations, privacy issues and discontinuing a number of popular products front and center, it would have been easy to miss what little there is out there on Google Ideas.

4) And, yes, there has been a bit of a media blackout. At one point a few months ago, I was told: we’re just not ready to say anything we haven’t already said. But, more recently, as someone who has had a bit more access than some of my colleagues, Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, told me that he has given no more than five or ten minutes of interview time to journalists over the last eight months since it was announced he would be joining Google.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.


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