For the Love of Media

When will the techy guys understand what business they're in?

The Osama story underlined the conversation. My entrepreneurs seemed full of awe about the eager audience looking for . . . something. Authority, voice, common ground. The attention of the public, that someone is going to hold it—that it might be you—is the most basic and powerful media impulse. And advertising—that’s what Silicon Valley people talk about when they come to New York. It is still, for most of them, a perplexing mountain. They exist on the promise of being able to sell advertising, except, really—save for Google selling lots of ads for little—they have no idea how.

And then there’s the factor of unlimited resources—a sense of a buying spree on the horizon, of deals being limited only by the imagination.

What we used to call the convergence of old media and new media once seemed like a historical inevitability—that is, until AOL bought Time Warner in one of the world’s great business disasters, thereby derailing the set pattern of history.

But historical destiny, I’d bet, is creeping back.

The binary nature of the old and new is just too odd and inefficient.

The former can’t program; the latter can’t sell ads—or hold anyone’s attention long enough to get them to see an ad.
Indeed, we are left with the anomaly of two businesses doing essentially the same thing, with one continuing to have most of the money and the other most of the value.

Demand Media is, to me, a curious and obvious case. They produce crap content for which, through search engine tolerance, they produce a big audience, giving them a big market cap. But search engines are growing less tolerant, meaning—am I missing something?—Demand Media ought to buy good content. Time Inc., I’m thinking, would make sense.

Anyway, everybody in Silicon Valley ought to come to New York next week for the upfronts and experience the smell of real money.