- So we know who got bamboozled. But who did the bamboozling? There really are no culprits — aside from one sad account of software hustlers actually defrauding the folks at the Hollywood talent agency CAA. Mostly, the media barons bamboozled themselves; the fear of losing turf to a new generation of technology, and later, the lure of quick Internet riches, motivated them to make costly decisions out of ignorance — to invest in Web ventures that any observer who actually used the Internet could see were poorly conceived and doomed to fail.
And that, really, was the problem. In the mid-’90s, as the New York media world woke up to the Net’s rise, I always assumed that reports of media leaders’ online virginity were highly exaggerated. I mean, how hard was it to install an AOL disk? But Motavalli’s account leaves it quite clear that, yes, many of these guys who were getting their companies on the Net really hadn’t ever used it themselves.
“If you’re not an online user, it’s very difficult to understand the medium,” says Warner exec Jim Moloshok. Well, duh. But somehow this elementary principle eluded media leaders for years. In one embarrassing anecdote culled from an Industry Standard article about the aftermath of the winter 2000 Time Warner/AOL merger, Time Warner CFO Richard Bressler hears about plans to promote Time magazines on AOL and asks, “What are these pop-ups? How big are they? Can you send me some information on them?” AOL’s legendary deal-maker, David Colburn, responds, “Rich, why don’t you invest $21.95 in an AOL subscription and consider it due diligence?” Ouch.
….Weinberger views the Web’s perennial technical problems and “under construction” imperfections as a healthy antidote to sterile professionalism and a key to the Web’s phenomenal fertility: “The designers weighed perfection against growth and creativity, and perfection lost. The Web is broken on purpose … Remove the controls and we’ll have to put up with a lot of broken links and awful information, but in return we’ll get a vibrant new world, accessible to everyone and constantly in the throes of self-invention.”
Weinberger’s Web is not just a giant marketplace or an “information resource” — it’s a social commons on which the interests of a mass of individuals are splayed in universally accessible detail and trumpeted in an effectively infinite array of personal voices. That concept is almost unfathomable to media pros whose business is “aggregating eyeballs” to sell to advertisers.
We are thrilled to welcome David Weinberger to Blogcritics!