Barry Diller Shares Insight on All Things Media

Loose notes from the SXSW 2011 session: Barry Diller Shares Insight on All Things Media

Barry Diller currently serves as the Chairman of Expedia and the Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC, a leading internet company that houses more than 50 businesses including Match.com, Citysearch, The Daily Beast, Vimeo, CollegeHumour, Electus and Ask.com. Prior to founding IAC, Mr. Diller served as chief executive for a number of companies engaged in media and interactivity including ABC Entertainment, Fox, Inc., QVC, Paramount Pictures Corporation and Paramount’s Entertainment and Communications Group which included such companies as Simon & Schuster, Madison Square Garden Corporation, and SEGA Enterprises, Inc.

Interviewed by Poppy Harlow, CNN Anchor. Fascinating romp through the current media and internet startup/corporate landscape, including thoughts on net neutrality.

All of the startup valuations are insane. Diller wants to buy/invest in nothing – everything is radically overpriced. What interests him is starting his own businesses, investing in inventions and ideas, not in chasing crowds.

News out of IAC: Newsweek/Daily Beast partnership. We started the Daily Beast because there are lots of people who blog but there was no place that had an old media journalist process but that was in the rhythm of the internet. There were things we wanted to cover more deeply. Take the DNA of the Beast and infuse it into a print book. Diller considers the partnership an experiment. “The only way you could save print was if you melded the model of the internet with the old approaches.” That didn’t work. How will we know whether it’s a winner? The readers will tell us.

Thoughts on iPad-only publications: “I find it amazing that they created a product called The Daily” that’s so hard to use. You have to download it on your PC and transfer it to your iPad. This is not forward motion. I don’t know why you’d release any product that’s targed to just one platform. Eventually you’re not going to have 32 closed systems.

There should be one unambiguous law: Nobody will stand between the publisher and the consumer. Full stop. Why aren’t people more vocal about this?

In early 20th century, phones were disconnected systems. Cable TV came along and said “This cable only carries so many channels, so we can limit what goes on that wire. We want 50% of your business.”

Net neutrality: It’s fine to charge people for actual usage (like electricity), but nuts to charge certain end points more. It would be like charging the toaster more for its electricity than the refrigerator.

We are in the very early period of a great revolution. You can go over the top, or around existing systems. If you can get people to watch you, you have ownership of the programming and the distribution. And coming payment systems will make this feasible. This is SO disruptive. 30 million households are connected to the internet. Within three years we’ll have internet television that anyone will be able to navigate – mass consumption of media not generated by mass media. Google TV is the first major stab at this. First iteration wasn’t a good product, but it will evolve, will get way better. This is a huge disruptive threat to MSM.

On Congress: You can’t let 450 people write a law. It doesn’t work. Which is why health care bill is such a mess – sloppy legislation.

Advice to entrepreneurs, developers who were coding on the tarmac on the way here: Get just enough money to get started. Give away as little as possible. Keep your head down. Do not listen to or talk to anybody. Listen partially to your audience – they can give you really bad advice. Keep going on your path – it will either work out gloriously or it will be an utter failure. Everything else is a waste of time. You’ve got to get the noise out of the way.

The air is great here (at SXSW) because it’s an environment that’s dominated by nobody.

VPN is so yesterday’s news. We’ll evolve away from it. Eventually, everything WILL be open. Even international router borders.

Hulu sounded awesome but it turned out it was nowhere near as economically viable as the old model. The people in charge WANT to keep the old system.

Diller: “The cable companies as much want NetFlix to succeed as they want utter destruction.”

Audience: Net use is not like electricity, and shouldn’t be pay-per-use.

Diller doesn’t feel government should have a role in supporting internet infrastructure. There’s so much money in this biz, it doesn’t need govt. It’s not analogous to the govt. building the highway system. Even though it pains him that U.S. is 16th in broadband penetration/speed, govt. should still not have a hand in this (I personally feel that govt. shouldn’t get economically involved, but should remain a critical watchdog to ensure fairness).

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