Ken Auletta (live!) interviews Wonkette, Jason Calacanis McCabe, and not-quite-Huffington

We’re going to try to bring a semi-accurate account of what went down this morning at 4 Times Square, but we’re a little rusty in the reporting department. So, don’t expect a word-for-word transcript. More like a stream-of-consciousness dream state with these characters appearing:

Panel Topic:
The World is One Big Blog

Moderator: Ken Auletta, author and New Yorker Annals of Communications Profile Writer & columnist

Panelists:
Jason Calacanis, co-founder & chairman, Weblogs, Inc.
Ana Marie Cox, founder & editor, Wonkette.com
Arianna Huffington, syndicated columnist, author and editor, HuffingtonPost.com
Arianna didn’t show up, due to a family emergency, so Kenneth Lerer, co-founder of HuffingtonPost.com, tried mightily to fill those stilettos.


Auletta: Why did you start HuffingtonPost.com?

Lerer said that Huffington was always on the phone talking to journalists and politicos, etc., and it seemed like a good way to put all of her in one place where more people could have access (and perhaps, where she could ultimately monetize the equation). [Remember, this is NOT verbatim and we could be wrong, as our reporting skills are woefully rusty, so don’t quote us, whatever you do].

Auletta next asked Wonkette something about what she enjoys about blogging.

Wonkette described how she enjoys working in pajamas (yawn) and then went on to defend her lack of interest in reporting: “I know what that thing is with the dial and the handset on my desk, but I rarely use it.” No laughs from the audience of mostly hard-core banker types and hard-bitten journalists.

She followed that with a wisecrack that renewed our faith in her, but for the life of us, we can’t remember what it was. It involved the word “lurid,” we do know this.

Auletta moved on to Calacanis. What do you like about blogging, he asked? [We believe that was the question.]

Calacanis: No one wants to go to an office… work in the corporate world [chuckles from the audience, which was warming up. Finally!] We’re not interested in quarterly profits, just in providing great content and the truth, the unvarnished truth.

Wonkette: You can’t handle the truth…

Then, we missed a few words and she continued, “No one takes my career less seriously than I do. [laughter] Blogging allows you to take chances, put it out there.”

She then professed derision for the pitching process.

Wonkette: Blogging is easy to do…my cat could do it… Most of all human endeavor is 99% crap. There’s a lot of crap out there [in the blogosphere]… [If one goes to the Internet to] check out blogs, what they’ll find is most would be written by cats, or about cats or by militias.

Auletta: When Arianna makes a mistake, does she acknowledge it?

Lerer: [we don’t recall what he said just then]

Wonkette: I don’t even pretend to report… I also don’t put facts out there. Arianna is rare in that she writes down what she hears. It’s a form of reporting.

OK, we don’t have any more time to give you the blow-by-blow (as we have to run off to Lunch at Michael’s soon), so we’ll just ad-lib here. Forgive us if most of this is misquoted. Here were some of the best lines:

Calacanis: Writers at the New York Times wouldn’t be able to handle [having their mistakes called out with strike-throughs as soon as they were published].

Auletta: How do you know anyone’s listening?

Lerer: spoke about servers, measurables, etc.

Wonkette: cracked some joke about being drunk all the time. “I usually carry around a tiny little bottle [of some alcoholic beverage].”

Wonkette: Being a journalist doesn’t mean you’re right all of the time. Being a blogger doesn’t mean you’re wrong all of the time.

Auletta: Why aren’t young people reading the mainstream media any more?

Then there was some discussion about young people not wanting some god-like figure to tell them what to think. More discussion on credibility of journos.

Calacanis: Dan Rather should have brought that blogger on air… and thanked him. He would have kept his job. Instead, he got defensive.

Auletta: How do you make money on blogs?

Lerer: Advertising. I think we’ll do exceptionally well. I wasn’t sure in the beginning. Now, I’m quite sure.

Calacanis: [Referring to TimesSelect] Put more news behind the firewall. That just means more clicks to me! Where’s Martin [Nisenholtz]? Put more stuff there! You won’t get indexed by google. I think [the Times] is putting things behind the fire wall as a hedge against a fall in advertising.

Wonkette: I get a pay check.

Wonkette: The Times has not been able to prove that their opinions are worth any more than any one else’s.

She then mentioned a site called IDisagreeWithMaureenDowd.com as proof positive. [laughter]

The conversation turned.

Calacanis: Yahoo! Now, they’re the big threat. They have the distribution, the advertising relationships online. They will be the arbitrage between Google ad sense and …[we missed this last part. sorry.]

AOL. AOL will be part of Google or Microsoft in the future.

Auletta: Speaking of AOL, have you been considering selling out to them?

Calacanis [not missing a beat]: News Corp. Microsoft. Google. Then AOL. That order. Wanna talk after this? [guffaws] … I wouldn’t want to sell to someone who’d want to filter bloggers though. It would take a very big, a very big visionary company, with lots of cash [audience laughs] to buy us.

Lerer: [Speaking about how the blog is not a disintermediating medium]. I don’t see it as so new. Just an evolution. No different what’s happening now than what happened 200 years ago [with the printing press, we presume, he means].

The conversation turned to the future of the blog model.

Lerer: The format of blogs is unappetizing to me. It is difficult to get through them. They will morph into something else… will evolve into a group blog with many opinions.

Auletta to Anna: How do you see the future of blogs?

Wonkette: The business model of blogs is uncertain. I know I get a check every month… I pay my ISP…

Calacanis: I’ll pay for your ISP. [Then, he mumbled something about how well all of his bloggers are treated and how they get 50% of something or other].

Audience member: Why don’t you take him up on his offer?

Calacanis: She doesn’t like me.

Wonkette: That’s what I was about to say.

Calacanis: We took one of Nick’s other guys for the same offer… [Nick being Nick Denton, who owns Wonkette.com]

Wonkette said she didn’t want the responsibility. Didn’t want to play that game of meeting deadlines and word counts, etc. She’s an old-school blogger. “If I have a hangover, I don’t blog…”

Calacanis: Blogger burnout is a huge issue. One of the major issues of running a blog company.

Out of nowhere before Auletta could even ask the question, Calacanis pre-empted him with “$50 million” [audience guffaws].

Calacanis: We’re making a couple million dollars… Not worried about big media companies competing… they don’t have focus. SO much easier to BUY than to build.

Auletta: He’s not obvious, is he?

Calacanis: Keeping bloggers motivated is my hardest challenge. That’s a big problem. If you took a hundred writers and asked them if they were writing about their passion, only ten of them would say yes. At our company, everyone has to be writing about their passion. We’re basically building a magazine company…[mumble, mumble] The Hudson News, that’s our model.

Calacanis: [the fact that the Times and WSJ are behind the wall] gives us top Google rankings. We beat the Times and the WSJ all the time because of that.

Okay, that’s all the time we have to deliver the panel discussion. Feel free to give feedback, positive or negative. Send to LaurelT AT mediabistro Dot Com.

Thanks!