A couple hundred people made their way up to the 8th floor of the Time Life Building last night to toast ten New York City-based tech startup rising stars as selected by Time Inc. There were no speeches or awards; the promoters provided the libations and nosh, and the attendees mingled while television displays overhead highlighted the ten sites. Mark Golin, an editorial director for Time Inc. and one of the main people behind the event, said his company's internal focus on the rapidly evolving world of publishing led it to take a look at what was going on around them. "We realized we all spend a lot of time also looking for external examples of innovation," he said. With Internet Week coming up, Golin and fellow Time Inc. executives canvassed their editors for the most exciting startups out there and whittled the list down to ten. "You can look at, was this clever? Was this unusual? Was this never thought of," he said. "Or what you can do is look at it and go, is this going to get used?"
Bowing before the democratizing funniness of the internet, writer, actor and comedian Michael Ian Black joined 30 Rock star Judah Friedlander, Comedy Central contributor and online humorist Sara Benincasa, and Alf LaMont, vice president of marketing for the LA club The Comedy Store, to talk about being funny online.
There is apparently nothing more irritating to veterans of viral than being asked by a presumably stuffy, uptight, corporate suit to make their Brand X become the Next Big Viral Thing on the internet. Like, poof, magic—your product video just got a million hits on YouTube. Not so fast Mr. Man—viral videos aren't just some whizbang process anyone under the age of 25 who listens to independent music and likes skateboards can do. It is, it turns out, something that requires a lot more luck and willingness to let go than pure force of will or ad dollars can muster. In fact, the reality is that you might not even want a viral video for your product. That's what the takeaway was from the "Can 'Viral' Be Bought?" panel discussion at Internet Week HQ yesterday. The panelists—Jonah Peretti of BuzzFeed, BBDO's creative director Jeff Greenspan, and web hooligan/meme generator Lauren Leto of TextsFromLastNight.com—put on a clinic of viral know-how wrapped in loads of social snark, while trying to demystify the elusive, coveted goal of viral social ascension.
People are watching online video longer—that was the first and perhaps most obvious conclusion drawn by executives from several online video sites who ruminated about their collective future earlier today on the Internet Week main stage. Jason Kirk, vice president of content and distribution for USTREAM, the live streaming video site, said during his days at MySpace, the uptick of average view time moving from two minutes to three was cause for breaking out the bubbly. They have a live feed up of baby bald eagles right now that have generated 130 million views. The average length of unique views? Six hours. More importantly, the ability to hold viewers' attentions longer are giving providers a bigger tool in their ad sales kit. Being able to offer more roll time ahead, during, and at the end of videos has helped the industry earn more than $1 billion in revenues last year.
Foursquare's Dennis Crowley has seen the future. You can forget a tech bubble and startup cage matches. Tomorrow's world of social networking sites and apps is an egalitarian one full of grown-ups who have lived through the mistakes of the last tech bubble and learned their lessons. Ladies and gentleman, your kinder, gentler Internet awaits. Foursquare is Crowley's second venture—a distinction he shares with many of his peers—after a similar service called Dodgeball. Whereas the previous tech growth and subsequent bubble saw gobs of money thrown at anything with a .com behind it, Foursquare's contemporaries are actual companies with actual products, based on years of experience and a vision of fulfilling a need—although there may not always be actual monetization. Foursquare's API has already been the backbone for a number of offshoot applications that both enhance user experiences and build new revenue and promotion opportunities for merchants. Far from being proprietary about his secret sauce, Crowley couldn't be happier to see other developers grabbing his code. "A lot of people like to make these matchups: this startup versus this startup," he said on the AOL Stage at Internet Week headquarters Tuesday. "But we're helping each other out by opening up a lot of the data streams, by opening a lot of the parts of the API. We're making the whole ecosystem stronger."