Why did you first get online?
I first got online in college. This was 1991 and 1992, and every few weeks I’d head to a computer room in a public building to check this weird but cool new thing called email. I’d send out a few messages and then return weeks later to see if the person I was connecting with had responded. My friends at Dartmouth were the best at answering emails, I remember, because the school had made it a priority for students to be connected. That seemed geeky, fascinating and possibly excessive.
I also have a strong memory of emailing people during my first job after college, at the White House. More than a year into the job we learned that all of our emails would become public after a certain number of years so that presidential archivists could learn more about the administration. This was scary to us. These were the early days of email, and online access, and it seemed like a bold new frontier. We shamelessly emailed about social plans and the like, and it never occurred to any of us that someone might, at some point, sift through these emails while recording history.
When did you first get involved with digital and why?
I first got involved with digital in a meaningful way when we started blip.tv in 2005. Until then, digital had seemed like a burden, especially as an overworked TV reporter asked to now file online reports in addition to each day’s television stories.
I got involved because I had always been interested in entrepreneurship, particularly because my father, a Harvard Business School professor, had stressed the importance of entrepreneurs to the American economy throughout my childhood. I had also become friends with Mike Hudack and was a bit in awe of him. I told myself when we met that if I knew one person who could be the next Bill Gates, it was Mike. And that if he ever started an internet company that made sense to me, I would stop whatever I was doing and join.
In 2005 he said he was thinking about starting a company that would enable people to share videos on the Web. This sounded a bit crazy, but interesting, especially with my background in television. At the time, I was a TV reporter. He asked me to test out the new blip.tv video hosting software when I headed to the Cannes film festival the following week. I ended up filing some of the first stories on blip.tv, which were reports from the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, shot by people I had stopped on the street and asked to hold a video camera for me.
Distant friends and acquaintance ended up somehow seeing these stories, and I began to understand the power of what this could all mean. At the time the Internet was a text delivery mechanism. Photos and audio were beginning to be shared, but mostly by early adopters. It made sense that video could be next, and I wanted to be along for the journey to see if this might happen. I joined blip.tv as a co-founder the week I returned from Cannes.
How would you describe your work and professional interests in the 1990’s (or 80’s etc).
In the 1990s I worked in the White House, for MTV News, and then as a TV reporter, mostly for local NBC affiliates. Exploring the Internet on your own seemed a bit scary and unmanageable in the early 1990s, and I remember being grateful to AOL for making the Web easier to navigate. In the mid 90s some of my friends started working at Double Click, and one of them seemed prescient. He told me kids in college were starting to listen to music downloaded from the Internet, and this seemed really cool and futuristic. I remember pitching to my bosses at MTV News, maybe two dozen times, a story on MP3s. Each time I was shot down, with my bosses insisting people wanted the liner notes for songs and the album or CD packaging. Finally, months later, Time Magazine did a story on MP3s and I was sent to Dartmouth to cover the story. I was furious, however, that I wasn’t the first reporter to cover download-able music. I knew there was something there.
Later in the ’90s, and early in the 21st century, digital was a distraction. Posting my television pieces, as a TV reporter, to the Web just seemed like extra work. The reporters at my station all wanted our news director and general manager to hire a second tier “digital” staff to handle the Web aspects of the network and our news coverage. We felt a bit above that. If only we knew then what we know now!
What do think the future will hold internet/digital?
In terms of what the future will hold, I think we’re early in how disruptive digital will be to traditional businesses, whether it’s retail, media, health care or others. In terms of media, we’ll see a bit of a merging between traditional and new media. With your Google TV, roku or Sony Bravia TV you can flip between network shows and blip.tv originally produced Web series that are every bit as entertaining.
And you can already watch both in your living room, on your big screen TV. This will become more mainstream over the next 5 years. Also, more advertising dollars will continue flowing into Web shows, and as that money gets funneled to the show producers, their content will get better, and the episodes will become longer. Web shows will begin to look increasingly like TV shows. Talented people will soon begin to think carefully about whether they want to pitch a show to a network TV boss; or simply do it on their own and distribute the show across digital networks.