Sips from the Firehose


Sep 24

Digital Family Meet-up at Wokcano


Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, new media, Online Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It was a cinematic night, as event organizer Brad Nye looked like he was making an entrance in a James Bond film, and Jason Calacanis did a Q&A (thanks for taking my question first, BTW), and looked a little like Citizen Kane.

It’s late and I’ve got a lot more post-processing to do on the photos, so here’s just a couple of the images that I shot.  The video of the discussions can be found at This Week in Startups.

Before the lights were adjusted, standing on the platform over the audience made the speakers look like they were either making a dramatic entrance - or having their identities concealed in some "60 Minutes" tell-all segment.

Before the lights were adjusted, standing on the platform over the audience made the speakers look like they were either making a dramatic entrance - or having their identities concealed in some "60 Minutes" tell-all segment.

The energy of the old VIC was certainly present – a little too much, as techies on the make back at the bar made it a little hard to hear the speakers at the time. This, despite the overt threat by organizers to find the yapping networkers and toss them out.

Anyway, here’s Calacanis discussing what the future of social media sites is going to look like, and what smart companies should do in the next couple of years to try to adapt to the increasing pace of innovation.

As I said in an email to Nye, Jason would probably be secretly pleased at the whole Citizen Kane-esque imagery here. And then, of course, he'd feel conflicted about it and make a self-deprecating joke.

As I said in an email to Nye, Jason would probably be secretly pleased at the whole Citizen Kane-esque imagery here. And then, of course, he'd feel conflicted about it and make a self-deprecating joke.

One of the more interesting areas of discussion – particularly since I just got back from Costa Rica – centered around virtual currency as being “the next big thing.”  Certainly seems that way in places like Costa Rica, where you’re getting an increasingly large, tech-savvy and connected labor force.  A lot of people either work in the internet gambling industry there – or have relatives/friends that do.  The speed of internet connections in San Jose – and even out in the jungles on the Pacific side – stunned me. I’ve had much worse connections in the small town U.S.A.

One of the things that has stuck in my head the last week or so has been the stories coming out about how spammers are getting around the Captchas by simply hiring dirt-cheap human labor to fill in the blanks on the pages to stuff spam onto our hard-constructed sites.  I’m not sure what the next step in trying to get rid of the spam is going to be – Calacanis lamented how from the very first days of blogs, spam started becoming a problem, and it has kept pace with our attempts to try to get rid of it.  Now it’s starting to get into the social networking world (viz today’s Phishing attacks on Twitter), where the level of trust that we have for our social circle is going to make the impact of a malicious click that much heavier.

Comments (1)



Mar 26

“Newspapers deserve to die” – Jason Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009


Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression

Curmudgeons skip directly to 7:50 or so, for the juicy bits. If you are in a crowded place, please allow at least 10 feet of safety space in all directions for when your head explodes.

This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote’s title is “Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression,” and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and “Old Media,” and lauds paid search as the “most powerful advertising medium ever created.”

Not coincidentally, Mahalo is a paid search company.

Along the way, Calacanis also trashes social media advertising, showing screenshots of drunken parties to “prove” that all advertising on this platform is unwelcome, intrusive and doomed to die.

Highlights:

“Gosh, newspapers didn’t see this coming, did they? I mean, the newspapers were reporting on their own demise for a decade. And they still couldn’t change it.

It’d be as if you’re the Titanic and you haven’t even left port yet.  And they’re like, “By the way, there’s a lot of icebergs to the north.” And you’re like “OK, thanks.” A day later, it’s “Icebergs are still there.”

They’re like, “Full speed ahead! To the icebergs, as quick as possible!”

They did nothing. They deserve to die. Don’t cry for newspapers, it’s great that they go out of business, because new things can take their place that are better. Much better.

(snip)

Don’t cry for journalism.  Rejoice, because a new journalism is being built, today, as we speak. And it’s going to be better than the last one.

(snip)

“They deserve to go away. Goodby, good riddance.”

The keynote was obviously designed to provoke a reaction (more than one conference attendee muttered “linkbait” after listening), and it certainly did that, as every other session after this opened with the panel trying to refute Calacanis’ claims. I’ll post John Battelle‘s rather more measured keynote tomorrow.

I have a few reactions to this, and I’ll post some more with the other three videos in this series.  But to start with, the notion that newspapers did nothing at all about the internet is absolutely false.  The industry has tried to engage with online since before there was an internet (you’ve probably all seen those videos from San Francisco, showing the early paper over video screen tech of the 80s). The problem is, that the battlefield on which newspaper have been trying to engage has shifted radically.  First, it was the fight between portals – Prodigy vs. CompuServe vs. AOL.  Then it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Yahoo vs. Google. Facebook vs. MySpace.

Newspapers are a $50 billion a year industry, with tremendously expensive production and distribution infrastructure, grown up over centuries.  If the Tribune chain had just splashed kerosene over the presses back in ’92, and declared in the flickering light that they were shifting every penny over into becoming a competitor to AOL … well, they probably still woulda wound up about where they are.  But along the way, there would have been tremendous dislocation – millions of readers not getting information.  Millions of readers turning to competitive print products that would have made billions.

So the newspaper industry has tried incremental solutions. Right up to this point, where, as we see in Seattle & Denver (despite what Jason sneers at, there are plenty of people who want to read what he dismisses as “boring” stories about local government, taxation, schools and crime) the papers are being forced to migrate to the web under conditions that are nothing short of brutal.

It’s all very well and good to talk about the exciting news products that are “being built today, as we speak.”  But I know many of the people that work at these small, struggling web news outfits. They are up against the wall, just trying to keep the broadband bill paid.  They are not going to be able to devote thousands of man-hours to digging through documents and making connections, and going out and doing original research (i.e. interviewing people to get things that are not archived on the magical, all-seeing web). Maybe this will be solved someday – but it ain’t the case today, and that’s when we need it.  We need this kind of enterprise reporting, or this country is going to implode, because society is angry at the economic collapse, and nobody’s really been able to dig deep enough to explain it. At least, not in a way that holds up & makes sense for more than a month or so…

If I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon here, well, it’s hard to watch this and not get a bit grouchy. I agree with Jason on the broad points – that Big Media has sinned, and is paying the price; that ad dollars are shifting to where the consumer eyeballs are, and that this trend is only accelerating.

But dude? Less of a gleeful grin.

Comments (3)