No, we’re not starting a new regular feature from the glass-encased Bryant Park bistro. But wow. What a room. This morning’s media breakfast had as many media bold-faced names as we see at the best Lunch at Michael’s. All gathered to hear, and ask questions of Yahoo chief Terry Semel, whom New Yorker writer Ken Auletta asked the very questions on everyone’s minds — even if he did softball the tone of a few of them (Chinese dissidents, Lloyd Braun, Web 2.0 tech ). Semel answered each at great length. (The longer your answer, the fewer questions can be squeezed in, after all, when you’ve got a hard-and-fast 9:30 cutoff point.)
Things we learned.
— plan to have Yahoo! leave China, and he doesn’t want anyone else in the media to, either. He does agonize over what effect anything he does there will have on the 1,000 or so Yahoo employees. He makes the case that you have to follow laws, or the government might take retribution against your folks. And he thinks it’s the U.S. government’s job to step in in a big way.
— plan to join a Google lawsuit accusing Microsoft with its new Windows platform of making it too easy to find MSN (which is behind Google and Yahoo in search) and too hard to find other stuff, like all of Yahoo’s applications. He figures if users are using Yahoo for lots of personalized stuff (like email, and storing photos and what-not), they’ll just find Yahoo again.
— plan to get in a major way into the content business. There’s plenty of content out there. When folks planned something that looked like a reality show, Semel kyboshed it. “Excuse me, but isn’t that television?” he says he said. “Why should Yahoo do television? Television does a very good job (of doing what it does). In this medium, it’s better to do something new” including interactivity. We wonder how long we’ll still see Braun — the former ABC TV exec who was written about when he joined a year ago as on the road to making Yahoo a big content creator — on the Yahoo payroll.
search” connecting people to people with answers, instead of to machines. “Is Web search the killer app, or did it just happen to be the first?” he asks. He also talks about the new-ish stuff they’re doing along those lines and predicts that a year from now video will “populate” the Web as much as text does now.
You can watch video of the event on the New Yorker Web site. (Sponsored by Tiffany. Woh.)
Other luminaries we saw included: Time mag’s Jim Kelly sitting next to Kramer, Bob Sauerberg of Condé Nast, AP chief Tom Curley (very personable as always), Douglas McCormick of iVillage, MPA’s Howard Polskin (thanks for the tix the other night), New Yorker publisher Louis Cona. On the list but we didn’t see with our own eyes: Maria Batiromo, Nora Ephron, Sarah Chubb of CondéNet, Jack Myers, Ruth Reichl, Newsweek’s Steven Levy, Maurie Perl of Condé Nast, which co-sponsored the event. Lots of the money folks at Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and elsewhere who grease the media wheels.
What a room. If the roof collapsed, we would’ve lost half the media management in New York. And we’re not listing the half of it.
The fresh berries and yogurt were very nice, by the way. Thanks to Peter Kafka of Forbes.com, Ritsuko Ando of Reuters and assorted other kind folks at the table giving us napkins to clean them up off our lap when we did the classic water knocks-over-pitcher, falls onto cup, knocks over plate, spills everything in 1,000 directions routine.