Tech = Media?

I attended TechCrunch Disrupt New York recently.  A few observations:

Web/mobile advertising and “flash commerce” were sliced and diced on several panels. Google and Facebook execs advocated for their new products.  Most interesting comments:  from Mark Walrath/RightMedia founder: “The Meeker Gap (% time versus ad dollars spent on web media) exists because web advertisers have not yet found the formula to sell to brand marketers. All this targeting stuff is incremental, the wrong conversation.  We need to demonstrate performance on metrics that marketers understand: purchase intent, brand recall.”  From Alex Rampeli/Trialpay: “Local merchants want to pay for a customer, not a click.  Payments and local lead-gen become the same thing: deliver a customer and keep part of the revenue (as payment value add).”

Michael Arrington, Tim Armstrong, and Ashton Kutcher

The super angels roared.  Ron Conway and Paul Graham (Y Combinator) were featured prominently and gave strong impressions of their philosophies and personalities. And, New York was officially anointed as the new cool venue in venture.  A rather unkind cut came from Eric Hippeau:  “The next Facebook will leave Boston and move to New York, not San Francisco.”

Journalists, bloggers, and media personalities are becoming much the same thing.  Michael Arrington is a terrific interviewer: aggressive, dry wit, great comedic timing.  He could stand in for Letterman or host the Academy Awards.  His session with Tim Armstrong (AOL CEO, his boss’s boss, if you believe Michael takes direction from Ariana) was like an SNL skit: two talented performers riffing on the natural tension in their relationship.  They did make a serious point:  they believe content is a great business: “We’re glad people don’t like content; they won’t compete with us.”

Ashton Kutcher took the stage and showed that he’s a celebrity turned new-age journalist: “my reach is 15 million people”.

The journalist-as-media-personality grows naturally from the decline of media brands; journalists must develop personal brands to succeed.  Personal branding platforms like Twitter enable this.  It makes me wonder what will happen to professional, objective reporting and analysis.  But, there is a bright side.  When the journalist is the publication, s/he is more transparent and accountable.  Jeff Jarvis/author: “The blog-o-sphere has introduced the ethic of correction and journalism as a conversation.  Transparency is the new objectivity.”

Tech and media seem to be converging.  TechCrunch was originally a publication that addressed the tech industry.  But, not until the middle of day 3 (of 3) did the agenda spend significant time on a business that was not some permutation of media, social, mobile, flash-commerce, and infrastructure for same.  That reflects the current reality of the venture market.  But, my gut tells me this cycle is getting old, and there is more opportunity and work to do than creating better Internet media and more flash commerce.  As one pro investor put it, when asked if he is buying in the GroupOn IPO:  “No, I’m going to wait for the half price deal.”


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