Kara Swisher

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Total Request Live

So Carson Daly, of all people, turns out to be an unlikely geek–but he sounded pretty sharp onstage interviewing a clutch of tech figures last night at the opening of AlwaysOn OnHollywood conference, the Tony Perkins-led event being held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood through tomorrow.


The late-night television host is involved with Demand Media, the user publishing-and-content platform, in its new .tv initiatives, and he talked about the state of the video market with Demand’s CEO Richard Rosenblatt, MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson, Sling Media head Blake Krikorian and YouTube Co-Founder and CEO Chad Hurley.

Their chat was mostly about the massive impact video is making and will continue to make in the coming year, especially related to giving consumers a lot of leeway and control via tech tools. “You have to give [users] everything they want, anywhere they want,” said Robertson. “… But just because everyone has a Webcam, it does not mean it will result in good content.”

Sling’s Krikorian was more positive. “There will be a democratization of production tools,” he said. “And [traditional media companies] are going to be giving up ground. It’s just a question of seize the opportunity.”

Hurley said YouTube intended to do that in the year ahead in the mobile market especially, given that his less-produced trove of user-generated video “look a lot better on the phone.” He declined to talk specifically about the $1 billion lawsuit that media giant Viacom is waging against YouTube, which was recently purchased by Google for $1.65 billion, even as Robertson prodded him by welcoming Hurley into the “10-digit lawsuit club.” Robertson’s former company, the MP3.com online music service, was the subject of earlier copyright lawsuits.

“We have a bigger vision,” said Hurley. “We have a big opportunity ahead of us to find solutions to monetize video and create a new market.” But he was mum on what those ad solutions will look like. “We’re experimenting,” he said.

Rosenblatt was the most visionary of the lot, though, predicting the rise of a more vertical Web and “microcommunities” that people will join. “People want their own channels,” he said. “I do believe users want more choices.” That means, he added, that the mass-media plays that Hollywood specializes in would be under siege.

But it was Daly who managed to be most pithy about that trend. Speaking for Hollywood, said Daly, “The Internet scares the crap out of us.”

Another surprisingly entertaining speaker was Motorola’s CTO Padmasree Warrior, who was there to talk about the cellphone maker’s aspirations beyond the device. She also stressed “personalcasting,” and noted that “individuals have choices and preferences and the device should know those preferences.” She also said mobility was the biggest trend she saw, using a rapidly blinking dot shown on the screen to represent cellphones bought worldwide (32 every second; that’s 2.7 billion mobile devices, more than three times the number of personal computers). That means, she noted, that companies like Motorola had to cozy up to content folks. “As CTO of Motorola, I never thought I would be in Hollywood,” she said. “I am a geek.” Indeed.


I also moderated an opening panel this morning called “Breaking News and Analysis 2.0” with Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor of the political powerhouse site Huffington Post; Alan Citron, general manager of the gossip site TMZ.com; and Kevin Rose, founder of Digg. The conversation, which you can see streamed off the OnHollywood Web site, centered on the mainstream media’s challenges from outfits like those run by the three panelists. Huffington, as usual, was full of quips, especially when talking about the need to stop making the online/offline distinction. She compared it to the false choice between “Gilligan’s Island” hotties MaryAnn and Ginger. “You should have a threesome,” said Huffington.

Rose was probably glad to be in a quieter venue after yesterday’s noisy controversy over the removal of stories from his social news site that contained a secret DVD encryption key. The company’s lawyers advised execs at Digg that it might be illegal to have published them. The purging caused a revolt on the site by its very active, First Amendment-wielding users, who flooded the site with stories about the key. Rose backed down–did he really have a choice?–and in a blog post on Digg wrote, “We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”

He reiterated the sentiment at the conference, which garnered applause, even if Digg might actually die trying.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google (owner of YouTube).