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CalacanisCast #25

Jason Calacanis w/

Special guest: Wired's Fred Volgelstein


Hello everyone, Tyler here - back with an impromptu podcast for your listening pleasure (read: no video)


As promised, Jason speaks with Fred Vogelstein from Wired regarding the recent fuss over interviews by email, and the upcoming Wired piece on A-list bloggers highlighting Michael Arrington.


Additional mentions in this cast: Dave Winer, Peter Rojas, Chris Anderson, Nicholas Negroponte, and Nick Denton.









contact: cast at calacanis.com



Tyler: This episode of the CalacanisCast is sponsored by GoDaddy and Podtech.net


JASON: This is exactly what PodCasting is about. Spontaneous Shit.


FRED: Hello?


Tyler: This Fred?


FRED: Yes.


Tyler: Great, Jason, you there?


JASON: Yeah, I’m here.


Tyler: Great, we’re all here and we’re rolling.


JASON: Okay. Well, this has got to be like one of the most interesting exchanges that I’ve ever had with a journalist.


FRED: Yes.


JASON: So, you emailed me today and asked me if I would talk about Mike Arrington.


FRED: Right.


JASON: And I was like hey lets do it by email.


FRED: Right.


JASON: And you came back and basically said no, I don’t do email, I only do phone so I’ll take a pass on the interview. And I was like, you know, wrote this sort of flame back to you, half a flame like here’s my thinking behind it. And low and behold I go on TechMeme and I was on several days doing a movie today and there’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15 Blog posts on the subject.


FRED: I know.


JASON: What the hell just happened?


FRED: I have absolutely no idea. I was just talking to Paul B___ about the same thing. I have zero idea. In fact the only, you know…


JASON: It’s certainly hit a nerve right, I mean? You didn’t take it the wrong way, right? We just have a different position. We’re two intelligent guys who have a difference of opinion, but this has really polarized a lot of people.


FRED: No I’m not sure I understand it, I mean I had, you know, lets be clear I mean I’ve done email, I’ve e-mail interviews before and part of the reason I don’t like to do them is because I’ve done them before, and you know I’m happy to… but it’s no an effort to try to not be accountable for what I say, I’m always happy to be taped, but you know, my experience, I’ve been doing this a long time is they try to get across in the email is that if he can’t hear the tone in somebody’s voice the opportunity for miscommunication kind of goes through the roof. I used to have this, I had this back and forth with ___ like four years ago and you know, we agreed that we would instead of doing an email interview we would meet in person which worked out fine. But you know, it’s not like, I’m not trying to be sort of a prick about it, it’s just in the interest to kind of have a productive conversation.


JASON: Right, and so then you know, you know what, I’m a former journalist as you know, I’m sort of more of a Blogger now and I ran a magazine for a long time.


FRED: I remember that.


JASON: I understand your position, like, it does feel better when you’ve got the person line, you get their tone and you can ask those spontaneous questions, there’s a whole technique to it, but having now that I’m on the other side and I get at least fifty interview requests per month, at least, some months you know 100-200, and number one, it’s a lot of work for me to give these interviews right? And it’s a lot of editorial energy and a lot of editorial value and so what I like to do in capture that value and put it in a Blog post and I’ll hold it ‘til after the interviews out, the rest of the stories out.


JASON: But also more importantly if you deal with someone like Mike Arrington who I’m business partners and friends with, I don’t want to save something that has you pick, I don’t know half a sentence or a sentence and then I have like my relationship with him is more important than the story with Wired, and I’m getting too many people misquoting me and it’s almost like, I think journalists have pushed some subjects to the point where their like you know what, I can communicate directly with the audience, I don’t need an intermediary anymore and why should I risk being misquoted? How do you do your job as a journalist when you have to go Dave Winer or myself say “you know what, it’s just not worth the risk” ?


FRED: The answer is that every single person that I talk to, if every story I worked on resulted in the kinda stuff that is happening today I’m sure I would be able to do my job, but it would change it in a way that I honestly can’t articulate. Not because I… Just simply because I’ve been sort of thinking about this all day and kind of ponder how, how to kind of go about dealing with just the fact that now the world knows that I’m working on a piece about Mike, and sort of like the A-List Bloggers in the world, and try to imagine what it would be like to report every single story from start-to-finish completely transparently and that part, I mean, I think that if there wasn’t a month long period where Wired was and Wired in particular was fallow, I would feel better about it. From where I sit, one of the issues I have to deal with is that I work on a story and then after the story is edited and done and ready to go, it then sits around for another month and so.


JASON: It gets stale.


FRED: Well, that means that anybody at the Journal, at Fortune, at you know any one of my competitors even in the best of the circumstances has a month to get ahead of me. I mean, in other words, if I were…


JASON: The more people you talk to and now your subjects have their own platforms and these platforms are not insignificant I mean between Dave Winer and I, we probably have the readership of Wired News online, we probably have more.


FRED: The numbers there are, you know, not things I track…


JASON: I mean pretty close, I get like 10,000 people a day and some days I get 100,000 like today I’m gone have 50,000 or 100,000 visits, he’s go to have the same thing so and then if he gets Scobel involved or somebody else, gosh now you run the risk of all those people outing your story, outing the best parts of it and your piece is six weeks old, how do you compete with your subject writing four stories, transcribing the entire interview and basically writing full pieces from their perspective to the elite members of the audience, I mean it’s, where does Wired the print magazine live in the food chain now?


FRED: I mean, I think the answer is that, one would hope that A, you know, not every single story results in the kind of stuff that they’re talking about, but you know, lets say it did, one would hope that I knew enough people that I could connect the dots in a way that other people can’t.


JASON: Right and now the analysis by a seasoned journalist like yourself, and I respect you as a journalist by the way and you know I’m a fan of your work actually so I also thought the whole Microsoft sort of .CA thing was pretty entertaining. I don’t mean to pick on you or Wired because I’m actually a big fan of the magazine I think Chris has done an excellent job with it. For all I got out of the print business because I couldn’t solve this problem and I said it’s much easier to do EnGadget and AutoBlog and all these other sites, I’ll just have all the breaking news, I’ll own it, and everybody’s got to chase me.


FRED: And the answer is… the question that you raise is one that is at the center of every single board meeting, at every single newspaper and magazine in the country right now. One of the things that I hope that in my theory of life is that the world in Silo-ed, you know everybody works in our own very, very narrow sort of existence and they can’t either by virtue of their being consumed by their day to day work or by virtue of the fact that it would get them in trouble with their bosses, they can’t call their competitors up and ask them what their doing. Whereas, you know, I can kind of sit above those silos and have those conversations and connect the dots, and hopefully connect them in a way that other people haven’t done before, so one hopes that as a result of the years of contacts I build up, that I can bring value to it, but you know, I have to say that if every single story, that if I write every single story you know from the beginning having everybody know what I’m working on, that could actually turn out to be to my advantage, I mean in a sense that…


JASON: Well, it’s promotion! Everybody is going to read this Mike Arrington story… that’s a good question, have you cancelled the story because of this?


FRED: Not that I know of.


JASON: Well, it’s ironic, Mike Arrington, is instead of me now because he feels like Wired is going to kill the story now. And my job is to try to like answer the question honestly for you on this call and give you good quotes, insightful stuff, so hopefully you still do the story if Mike’s not pissed at me.


FRED: I mean my interest, you know, frankly, I’m prepared to talk to people, like I said I hate doing e-mail interviews cause for all the reasons that we talked about, but you know, one of the things that people who work for mainstream media always get criticized for is being sloppy or malevolent and…


JASON: Phoning it in…


F.V.: Or phoning it in and the answer is Yes, sure, I mean sure: just as there are bad investment bankers they’re also bad lawyers, there are bad journalists.


JASON: So actually in a way, you’re doing the better job and I’m penalizing you for it, like I’m like, oh I know you’re putting more work into the story so from your perspective you’re putting more work in from my perspective I’m so distrusting, not distrusting of you, but just in general, distrusting that I’m gonna get my story told correctly and wanting to be able to tell a fuller story it’s sort of like a cold war, kind of interesting. Just so you know, when I answer people in the e-mail I give the same outlandish, crazy answers that I give when I do phone interviews or when I talk on stage cause part of my persona and cache’ is to be the blunt guy and frankly that’s why people call me for quotes, cause they know always their gonna get a really blunt, honest take on things.


FRED: And to be honest, that puts you in like the half of one percent of the people I talk to.


JASON: I come from the Marc Cuban school of life, like, I’m just gonna be honest and be who I am and I don’t care if I offend people or piss them off, just be honest and at the end of the day people at least know I’m honest.


FRED: Right. It’s a very strange time for all of us, but you know I think that the whole point of doing the piece on Mike, for example, is that it’s kind of an example of what can be done. In the sense, obviously, you built and sold your company so that’s already been well established, but Mike is doing something that is kind of, that’s really interesting to watch, in the sense that…


JASON: So what was your question him? ‘cuz I actually have some thoughts about the things that you put in the email. You’ll notice I didn’t publish your email because I would never do that to you or anybody. What is your question?


FRED: Well… maybe the best place to start is in reverse, I mean why did you guys decide to do the conference together?


JASON: That’s a great question. I was out at dinner with Steve Gillmor and Mike in Palo Alto, I don’t know maybe in November or something, and Mike was asking me for some business advice and I was giving him some unsolicited business advice because he’s basically doing something similar to what I did in Web 1.0 with Silicon Alley Reporter. I had conferences, had a magazine and email newsletters. “Online, In Print, and In Person” was our tagline. It was actually very similar to what John Battelle did with Industry Standard. I was saying conferences are a big part of this, you could really create great impact, great influence, you know extend the brand, make money, etc, and create extra value, even diversify your revenue streams...


JASON: I’m out of that business now, as you know, and I don’t go backwards in life so I didn’t want to do a conference business so I basically, my philosophy is to give as much advice as I can to the people I like and I’m a fan of Mike’s so I just told him everything I know about conferences, exactly how to run them, cause I had done in 1997 and event called Ready-Set-Pitch and it was chronicled to the New York Times and it was Meet-the-Alley and I basically had ten companies come up and present and I gave them ten minutes each and it was really a lot of fun and Jerry Colonna who was at Flat Iron Partners at the time and Microsoft’s _ and I were the judges and I was 25-26 years old at the time and it was just a great, great event and I always loved that format of pitching and getting blunt feedback from people so I told them you should do it like that, but instead of DEMO which sells their slots for $18,500 and I think John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly are now selling their slots at their Web 2.0 conference it’s fine, and listend, that’s fine, I think those people have ethics, I don’t think that their bad people, but I do think it’s wrong to charge startups that amount of money. I sort of feel like it’s gauging, but if they were willing to pay for it, they’re obviously making their own decision, however, I believe the best companies, the Diggs the Weblogs Inc, the Gawkers, the Flickrs, you know, even the Google would never pay, so then what you’d have at those events and I’ve been to them, I don’t know if you’ve been to them, you generally get the weaker companies they are people who have to pay. They have to pay to get attention, whereas a company like Digg or whatever Flickr, they don’t have to pay for attention. They get it.


JASON: So what I said to Mike was, you would just make a total statement if you didn’t make them pay, you’d make half the money or a third of the money, but money’s not everything. Run the even at a lower margin, but have integrity and really be a champion of ideas as opposed to payola, and liked the idea and he asked will you do it with me? And I said well I’m kind of busy I’m doing this whole Sequoia thing blah blah blah anyway we talked and we talked and finally we decided to partner on it, ‘cuz I said you know I’ll do it, here’s the role I can play, I can help with the advisors, I can help with how to structure the event and sponsorships and lend my name to it and you know that kind of stuff and you know we like working together and we’re very similar people: I mean we’re both opinionated, blunt people.


FRED: What is it about his business that you think is, I mean, you have a better way of sort of analyzing what Mike has accomplished than I think I do, I mean I can look at it is reader numbers, but I think it’s probably more profound than that.


JASON: The thing about Mike is, and I feel a lot of myself of Mike and maybe that’s a little ego-tripping on my part, but you know the thing about when I wrote about Silicon Alley I was part of it, I was very much part of the community and people criticized me a little bit about that they thought I was too close cause I would hang out with Josh Harris, he was one of my best friends, he was from Pseudo, and I hung out with Jeff Dachis, Craig Kanarick from RazorFish, I mean I became very close to the subjects and, as a matter of fact, at some points became the story along with them, but I always had the best insider information and I always had really good insights, everyone knew I was friends with certain of people and these are before the days of radical transparency and I was always somewhat transparent that I was friends and sort of fan of theirs.


JASON: Well, Mike I think is actually a fan of the Web 2.0 industry, but he has tremendous credibility and understanding of what these products are all about and how they work. He can actually analyze on a product level, and he’s a hustler I mean he started… he wrote about products and people who make products responded to it and made him the authoritative voice on Web 2.0, not Tim O’Rielly, not John Battelle, not me, not Esther Dyson not Om Malik even though Om Malik he’s probably a close second, not Rafat Ali he’s probably a close second with PaidContent but you know they said Mike Arrington’s analysis of start-up companies on a product level is the best. And that’s one of the great things about the Market, he does better product analysis than anybody he actually understands how his product works at a very granular level, on a feature-based level and that’s what made TechCrunch into the #1 site which reminds me a lot of Peter Rojas at EnGadget, you know he understood gadgets and technology better than anybody and that’s why EnGadget is the #1 Blog and so I think he really has just incredible product insights and for me I suppose it’s, I like working with people who are really intelligent about things like that, that’s why I liked working with Peter Rojas so much at EnGadget.


FRED: I mean, in terms of where did the conflict, I mean, you talk to people and I’m not sure how much of this I buy myself, but ya hear it. People go, oh he’s conflicted you know and he bullies people and he does this, he does that I mean and anyway I’m puzzled as to how to sort of process that because obviously there is a fine ine between being aggressive and being an asshole. Where do you think all that comes from?


JASON: Obviously there’s a lot of people who are jealous. Right? You know whenever, and I had the same experience at Silicon Alley Reporter. I became extremely powerful under my opinion, what I put on the cover of the magazine became very influential, but people sometimes get the attribution wrong, people start to think oh Jason put DoubleClick on the cover of Silicon Alley Reporter and then he put RazorFish on the cover of Silicon Alley Reporter, I put Cosmo on the cover and then this company got all this venture funding and they became very successful so Jason was the “star maker.” That was actually not what was going on.


JASON: What was going on was: I knew the VC’s really well. I knew the service people, i.e.. lawyers, public relations people etc. really well, and they would feed me information like by the way, Cosmo, you know you didn’t hear it from me but these five companies are gonna have major investment, they’re doing really well and so I say OK I’ll put them on the cover of the magazine cause they’re up-and-coming and people got the whole cause and correlation thing wrong. Yes it was correlated, but the cause what that I had inside information.


JASON: And I think Mike has a similar thing. He gets tremendous inside information! He is a hustler journalist. He called me, even before we were in business together, he called me on a regular basis, what’s going on, hey what do you think of this, this and this, that’s like you do you , right? A journliast is as good as his contacts, as good as he uses those contacts, I firmly believe that and he uses contacts, he makes phone calls, he gets better stories and scoops than other people.


JASON: Now, there is an issue that comes up when you are the Editor and the Publisher/Editor and CEO of a publication and, by default, when you’re doing something like a Blog, you are right? And so if people see you doing the business and they see you doing the editorial side, it’s very easy for them, you know, just like they mistake cause and correlation of, you know, are you anointing people or do you just have good inside information?… they start to confuse advertising in business with editorial and that’s why the Chinese Wall of Church & State exists at standard publications and for that reason if I could ever do Silicon Alley Reporter over again I would put an editor in place, you know?


JASON: I still would have been involved in editorial, but I probably would have put an editor in place and just been CEO or vice-versa, or I would have put a CEO in charge and been just editor. And that’s what Mike recently did. He brought in a CEO because, you know what? It is a difficult thing when you’re talking on the phone to somebody about sponsoring your conference of buying advertising or sponsoring your event and then you’re covering them the next week and as you know, in editorial, you have to avoid even the importance of impropriety because in the public’s mind the appearance of impropriety is impropriety.


JASON: And you have the specific thing now that’s a lot different than when I was doing it. When I was doing it there were a couple of crazies who would say like oh you’re conflicted blah blah blah, but the worst thing you could do was tell some people about a cocktail party. Now what you have are Bloggers who could say okay I’m gonna make a list of every time you know this Blog covers somebody who has been an advertiser and make a correlated list, right? And you could actually really start to create this sort of appearance of impropriety. And so I think Mike has people who maybe he trashed their products cause he didn’t like them and they believed that he is sticking it to them and have an axe to grind and so he had built up a large group of people who have been honest about their product sucking who have it in for him and then you have that potential impropriety there that they can leverage to basically discredit him because he didn’t like the product, but the truth is no journalist if you have a great product, can stop you.


FRED: Right.


JASON: It’s just not possible. If you hated me and you decided that whatever my next project is, Project X, and you want to write a slant piece or you know put on the cover of Wired you know Jason’s Project X* really sucks. If my project was great it would have no impact, zero. You cannot make a bad product, a journalist doesn’t have that power, people are just a little warped in that position so you know with great power and all that influence, people are gonna basically throw rocks at… But he’s on the throne. He’s number one.


FRED: Does he have to change the way he does things as a result of getting to the point where he’s at this point?


JASON: You know that’s always a very tough thing because people told me that when I got on top, you know? I was at the bottom, I was a nobody, but I built my magazine bigger and harder and stronger than any other publication on the East Coast and when I go there people said you’ve got to tone it down, you can’t be too aggressive and I was like I’m gonna be who I am, I’m not gonna stop pulling punches, and I think it would be very dangerous for him to start giving people kid-gloves on their reviews just because he doesn’t want to be able to say that he’s being too much of a hard ass. I think he should really continue to write great product reviews and have his great insights in the roundups he does and the only thing he can change is as much as you can to further business decisions and move those discussions away from yourself and say I’m an editorial, this persons a CEO on the business side, talk to them and stay out of discussions so when we’re doing a conference together I told them for anyone whose interested in getting involved, me and Heather will handle the business side and don’t even engage the discussion because then when somebody doesn’t get selected for the event or whatever I can say that was Mike’s decision, when people say like oh we want a sponsorship and you know does that mean Mike picked them for you, and say no that’s Jason’s decision and you can say credibly and so you know it’s, anybody who gets, I mean… Wired magazine had this problem when Wired became so powerful in the day and everybody’s like oh Wired only likes the MIT crowd and you know why did Nicholas Negroponte have the backpage? Oh well he’s an investor in Wired I mean you remember that?


FRED: Yes.


JASON: So I mean, you tell me, was Wired on the take when they gave Negroponte the backpage column.


FRED: I don’t know. I wasn’t here so I refuse to speculate.


JASON: I mean, do you think that Wired was giving Negroponte the back page because he was an investor?


FRED: I don’t have the slightest idea.


JASON: Exactly, but I mean you could see I could spin that, you know?


FRED: Yeah. I could see how that got spun up that way, but you know. Does he have the ability to kind of take the business beyond… into something that’s national?


JASON: I think he’s a tremendous entrepreneur and I think that if he can delegate the trick when you’re you know really good at what you do, delegation, and that was the big problem I had as a Silicon Alley Reporter I had to delegate and list my big triumph at Weblogs INC was that I did not have to delegate I sort of learned it the hard way. And seeing that is he’s one of those entrepreneurs who… that’s his main issue. If he can delegate well and he can bring in people smarter than him at certain aspects of the business or even not as smart as him but have more time to dedicate towards certain parts of the business, I think he could have the potential to be as big as CNET. I think the business is that good. And I think his reputation is that good. I think he could go into other verticals and TechCrunch could become a franchise in the way that CNET became a franchise or Industry Standard or whatever you know. Do I think it’s gonna be Reuters? I don’t think that’s the attention, but I could certainly see him going into multiple verticals and being successful in them, I could see them having premium products, I could see the conference business doing well.


JASON: So I think he’s a force. I think he’s got the energy and when you’re that kind of person you basically need to surround yourself with people who could focus on the other parts of the business and that was why I brought Peter Rojas in to Weblogs Inc. because my pitch to him - which was I will support the hell out of you, I will fight to protect you from the outside forces, I will get you every resource that I possibly can to make the best possible product that ever been created and get you the best Blog I’ve ever created and bound and it’s what Bill Gates reads every day and what Steve Jobs reads every day… It’s the best you know, consumer electronics blog in the world since, I think it’s arguably the best blog in the world and I think when you can separate yourself, like I never inserted my own stuff into the editorial adding EnGadget or AutoBlog or any of the blogs, when you do that you can really scale a business.


JASON: I think Nick Denton is the example of someone who can’t do that. You know? So his business is what is he gonna be, you know, a certain percentage of him, so I think that’s by design. He wants to have a lifestyle business, but he’s always gonna stick his nose into ValleyWag and he writes posts on ValleyWag all the time and doesn’t put his name on them, he feeds stories to Gawker all the time you know? He can’t keep himself out, as a matter fact I’ve had multiple editors of Gawker say that he tried to do things like ‘out’ people or write stories of people he has issues with so some of them decline, others don’t.


FRED: Right, I mean, in other words the issue I, part of the reason I ask the question is that one of the things that’s really, that you have to give my credit for is his work ethic.


JASON: There’s no substitute for our work. That’s simple. The best journalists are the ones who make the most phone calls.


FRED: But on the other hand, it is so over the top you start to imagine how long it’s sustainable so in other words it’s one thing… there are not too many people who can work sixteen hours a day, seven days a week.


JASON: It’s very true. I have the issue with, again, Peter Rojas, at EnGadget. He hit the wall a number of time and I had to come in and do like an intervention with his and say hey Peter, take a vacation. You have to take a week off and then I went to his team and I went to the team Ryan Block and the other people and I said, Peter’s gonna take a vacation and when he does I want all of you guys to do, you know work twice as hard as you normally would. Do twice as many posts, do better posts, get things set up ahead of time that will draw a lot of traffic you know a lot of buzz. I want the week that he is on vacation for our traffic to be fifty percent more, you know?


JASON: And they all rallied to show him that when he wasn’t around they would do the right thing and would really you know keep and become stewards of the brand and so I think that he’s gonna need to do what Peter did which is surround himself with great editors, but the problem is, there are no other great editors out there who know products as well as he does and so then you’re faced with the conundrum of, you know, people who are perfectionists like Mike Arrington is or Peter Rojas who are hard working, they don’t wanna deal with someone who can do sixty percent as good a job as them or seventy percent… they’d rather just do it themselves and obviously that has a limit so then what you have to do, and I did this with Peter I said find someone whose sixty or seventy percent as good as you, let’s invest in training them, lets invest in spending time with them and editing their work and lets make them eighty-five percent as good as you. And then maybe eighty seven percent and then maybe even ninety percent at some point, but lets not expect their gonna be you.


JASON: It might not be possible, so let’s try to get four people who are sixty percent as good as you and bring four people a long and see if we can get three of them to seventy percent, two of them to eighty percent, you get the point and it’s all about the delegation it’s all about building up people so I think Mike’s gonna be able to do that, I think he will, I think it’s gonna be a challenge for him though because it’s always so much easier to just say you know what I’ll write this Blog post, screw it.


JASON: It’s easier for me to write it than re-write it you know I would hear that a lot from some of my top Bloggers. It’s more time for me to edit this persons post than to just write it from the bottom up, and so you know me I’ve just become obsessed with delegation, that’s what I do now. Basically, I’m a talent scout now. I consider myself like a coach, you know? If I was at the height of my career, a great basketball player, if I was Michael Jordan now I’m Phil Jackson you know maybe I’m delusional on that one I’m not sure, but whatever, if I was Patrick Ewing now I’m Pat Riley.


FRED: It’s actually funny to watch Phil Jackson coach because I’m actually old enough to have watched him play.


JASON: Exactly, he’s a much better coach than he was a player and I think… yeah we’ll see. Some people have a hard time with that transition.


FRED: Yeah I mean I think that. Are there any barriers to entry? Could somebody else come along a sort of take what he’s done? In your opinion, what’s his secret sauce? Of any of these, I mean of any A-List Blogger for that matter?


JASON: Well I think there’s this hard working component: like showing up every day. And it’s very hard to do that right? So, you have to basically show up every day, that’s the baseline. And then you have to continually improve and you can’t just sort of phone it in, you know? I don’t know if you saw Tarantino’s last movie Grindhouse. It’s bad, don’t see it, it’s not worth seeing, I mean it really is that bad, and you see like some flashes of Tarrantino in it like a couple pieces of dialogue, couple scenes there, but it’s sort of like sad like seeing Michael Jordan when he came back and played at 40, you know? And you see him do a couple interesting plays a game, but it’s just a little bit sad kind of a thing. You have to stay on top of your game and but you know he’s got a pretty strong brand that would take a lot.


JASON: My estimation is in order to displace TechCrunch someone would need to spend millions of dollars at this point and I don’t think they would displace them, they might just give them a little bit of a run for their money. But Mike has the contacts, the credibility, so sort of like his game to lose. Mike could pick up the phone and call me, he could call the top ten VC’s in the world, he can pick up the phone and pick up the top ten entrepreneurs in the world and we like him you know, and we respect him even though let me tell you something, I got my ass kicked by Mike when I did Netscape. He didn’t like it. And he said he didn’t like it. And now I’m partners with him on a conference business. So, what I always tell him is that you can write about me and write whatever you believe is the truth because the truth shall make you free and I would much rather have you give me criticism because then I have a chance to fix it. I don’t want you sugar-coating it and I don’t know what’s not good in my product and have a chance to fix it. I don’t know if every entrepreneur feels that way, but I’m sort of philosophical about it…



JASON: You know what. I hear people talk about that, and it’s sort of like you can’t put lipstick on a pig, like if it’s not good editorial, you can start playing those games and you might get a hit here or there, but it’s not gonna be consistent, so yeah, you get yourself on Digg, but if people look up the URL and the source on Digg and go oh it’s thatcrummyblog.com, their not gonna click through, you know? I mean yes EnGadget is on Digg all the time, TechCrunch gets on there often and the reason they get on is because they’re quality and the reason people click through is because they respect those brands and so you can play games, but that’s for sort of the low rent people I think. I do no optimization. I don’t play any games. I write stuff that’s passionate that I hope is insightful sometimes and I’ll write a piece that I work for two hours writing a blog post and thinking about for a month or two and nobody picks up on it and then I write something today which was a total throw-away post before I went on set with this movie and boom, you know, it’s the number one on TechMeme and fifteen people and counting discussing it and it’s gonna become like, it’s actually a really interesting discussion, you’ve got Dave Winer, and Dave Gillmor and Mike Arrington and just a lot of interesting people checking in on it.


FRED: I mean it’s, and I found myself going, I wish I understood how Tech Memes algorithm works because it didn’t seem like there was anything to what put it there?


JASON: Well what happened, there’s a white list of sites for TechMeme and if they see mom than two or three sites linking to one URL that’s on the white list as well it makes a you know parent/child relationship, so then once it breaks say two or three lengths, then a lot of other people learn about, okay three people who are talking about this or two people Dave Winer and Jason, okay these are two interesting people and then boom five people pile on. So then you have more entry points to TechMeme discussion and that you know….


FRED: When you say a white-list does that mean in other words there is no, there’s like a top ten list of like.


JASON: When Gabe made it, he put in a bunch of sites that he liked, and then what he said was, if all these other sites were linked to new sites, so if you made, FredBlog.org linked to it and Mike Arrington linked to it, then it could join the white list so it’s a sort of organic white list. You start with a group of trusted sites, then if they link to something, it becomes trusted. So then it joins the club you know what I’m saying, so it’s almost like you have to have references, so like, but it doesn’t mean that’s exclusive you know like you know basically the way to keep out spam so if you people link to you and you join the discussion then it can pick you up so it takes a little while, but, I wasn’t on it for the first month or something and I guess people linked to me and BOOM now I’m on it.


FRED: So in other words, part of it probably had to do with the fact that you were on it as opposed to somebody else.


JASON: Well I think I’m on the white list and I think that the fact that I had Dave and Myself write it, which are two, I don’t know Dave is an A-List Blogger, I don’t know if I’m an A-List Blogger in terms of traffic I don’t think I am, in terms of links I guess I’m probably close to it, but even still you had two high profile people write it, Dave much more than I, but we have two things like that and it also struck a nerve, I think it’s more about the topic honestly if you look at the people responding, there are some people who are responding who really aren’t anybody.


FRED: Right.


JASON: I’m not gonna say which ones, but there are people on the list who just aren’t that important.


FRED: It’s a really interesting conversation, I have to say… Broader topic, aside from traffic is there something that distinguishes an A-List Blogger from someone else?


JASON: Well I think it’s your ability to create these conversations, I mean some people define it on the number of links you have coming in you’re Technorati ranking. It’s not really the most important thing, I think your ability to put ideas out there and then have people discuss them and ideas that sort of move the needle, so you know like I wrote a lot of Blog posts about PayPerPost right? Like champion something, I took a position and it’s probably resulted in you know I don’t know hundreds of thousands of words now worth the Blog posts and probably a hundred if not thousands of Blog posts and if you can consistently be the person, like Tim O’Reilly comes up with a lot of interesting stuff, John Battelle comes up with a lot of interesting stuff, Mike Arrington, Scobel, you know if you can start really interesting discussions, I think that’s what for me defines an A-List Blogger you know.


JASON: But I really don’t believe that there’s an A-List because it’s constantly changing and anybody can join the discussion so when you go to Techmeme, you know, your next to you know Dave Winer, next to me, next to you know people who maybe nobody even knows their name, so, what does it really mean there’s an A-List, you know, that they have more interesting conversations that they started, well that doesn’t really mean that they’re A list, it doesn’t really mean that anybody really put them on the A list, what it means is that they start more interesting conversations than other people. So is that an A-List or it’s just a more interesting person?


FRED: Well, I mean, in other words, I think of it as somebody who generates a lot of, who starts a lot of conversations, but also somebody who like isn’t an amateur.


JASON: I don’t know.


FRED: I mean you know, Rafat and Mike and Om and all those guys and John are hardly what you would call amateurs.


JASON: There is a common through that a lot of them came from journalism backgrounds but Roberts Scobel, I mean he’s not a journalist, he was working in a tech stpre you know, he was working in a consumer electronics store.


FRED: Believe it or not he has a journalistic background. Most people don’t realize that. He did the journalist thing before he worked for NEC, years and years and years ago he was a journalist, so he understands how to play a game.


JASON: I think there’s a lot of people out there who come from that background, but I’m meeting a lot of young people and there’s also a lot of CEO types now that are becoming big bloggers. I mean, Mark Cuban has been a quote-unquote A-list blogger, but to be totally honest, I think the A-list and I’ve had a couple discussions about this, is sort of like…that’s a construct, by people who can’t get people to pay attention to their ideas in other words, week people who have non-compelling ideas say there is an A-Llist holding me back.


FRED: I wasn’t thinking of it like that.


JASON: But that’s how people think about it I think. They sort of want there to be an A-List because it justifies the fact that maybe they suck.


FRED: Well, I mean, I think it’s the difference frankly between people who like view it as sort of their profession and people who view it as something they do with their spare time…


JASON: If you’re writing a Blog for your family and you’re not an A list Blogger you know whatever that means, you don’t get a ton of traffic you don’t have a ton of links I mean you’re not writing about the right things that people wanna read about so I mean I could tell you exactly how to become a quote-–un-quote A list Blogger. All you do is camp on TechMeme right? Whatever interesting stories come out, go to each of those places and write an intelligent comment on those peoples Blogs. Then every maybe three days write a really intelligent response to whatever the top stories are. If you do that for thirty or sixty days you’ll be in the A-List. It will absolutely happen. This guy Mike, what’s this guys name who now, Matthew Ingrum* is some guy who I had no idea who this guy was and now he is a Technology writer for the Globe and Mall in Toronto, never really knew the guy, it’s not like it’s some major magazine published in states, but he writes about the A-List Bloggers all the time and whatever they’re talking about and he posts on there comments of their Blogs and now most people will say he’s an A-List Blogger. He came outta nowhere! You know? Even Arrington, Arrington was a lawyer. You know? He came outta nowhere. Rafat Ali worked for me, he was a journalist, but it wasn’t like he was some big time journalist. He was just a mid-level guy at Silicon Alley Reporter. He was great, I loved him, I was very fond of him, but you know, it wasn’t like he was John Markoff .


FRED: Right, that’s when I say I don’t understand it, I don’t really mean I don’t understand it, meaning you sort of rattle that off as like being obvious, but it’s not obvious. I mean, the idea of like, okay you go to TechMeme and you write an intelligent comment on you know a bunch of different posts there and then you write an intelligent comment on your own blog every three days, I mean, you know, you do that for a couple of months. I think most of the world doesn’t have a clue about that.


JASON: Well, I mean also most of the world probably doesn’t know how to be intelligent, interesting person at a cocktail party either. Most people have cocktail parties are probably pretty boring and you don’t wanna talk to them for so long. And there are some people out of cocktail parties you go to immediately and start talking to until the party ends.


FRED: Yeah, there’s that.


JASON: I mean some people don’t want to be that person. Some people are drawn to it. I would love to start conversations and mix it up and debate things. I would love to do that. I’m made for this medium and I think certain people are made for this medium. People who like to do debates, sometimes people who are cantankerous, people who are honest and blunt, those are the people who do best.


FRED: That’s true, that’s true. Alright man, thank you for the call.


JASON: My pleasure and uh, anytime. Alright I’ll talk to you soon, bye.


JASON: Tyler?


Tyler: Yeah.


JASON: What did you think of the whole conversation? Interesting how this thing became sort of a brew-ha-ha. It really hit a nerve with people.


Tyler: Right.




Tyler: Well. It’s a turning point kind of event really you know?


JASON: A tipping point perhaps.


Tyler: Right. And it just feels like, you know, maybe there’s something changing, like changing of the guard kind of feeling, you know, where’s the control in this and it’s like Winer has his point, you have your point, if this gets put on like CalacanisCast and Winer Blogs about it where does that leave Wired’s story at the end of the day, I think that’s kind of tangled into the whole story not just the fact that you want to do it by e-mail, but there’s reasons for it and those reasons lead to a bigger question.


JASON: Yeah I think that’s what’s gonna happen, he brought it up like that’s how it relates to Newspapers and that whole Sam Zell story we had last week on CalacanisCast.


Tyler: He made a point similar to Mr. Tribunes our anonymous undisclosed guest from a few ‘Casts back where they’re making the point of how he says that it comes up at every meeting they have at Wired. It’s like the sense of the vision that reminds me of how ice salesman must have been talking during the invention of the refrigerator you know?


JASON: Tough conversations huh? Sounds like the guys on the Titanic when they realized they were out of boats.


Tyler: Yeah, I’m sure there was a similar conversation there as well.


JASON: Yeah. Hey so you wanna hear about my day?


Tyler: Yeah.


JASON: So you know where I was today?


Tyler: Movie action I think right?


JASON: Yeah, today I was in a movie and this is like a real movie, like I went to a movie set and the name of the movie is August, end of the month, takes place in August 2001 and so I don’t know maybe three months ago I got contacted by these movie producers and they said hey would you read this script it’s about Silicon Alley, you know that time in 2001 in August and it’s about an Internet company and I said okay sure, so they send me this screenplay and while I was fatblogging on my treadmill I get to page forty and they say Jason Calacanis takes the stage and you know introduces this internet CEO.


JASON: It turns out they basically, the person who wrote it I guess did research and found out I did conferences in New York, in my Silicon Alley Reporter days, so they call me and say hey would you be interested in playing yourself in the film? And so I showed up on set today at 8am and who is there in the Trailer next to me? Josh Harnett. You know the dude from Black Hawk Down and he was in Lucky Number Slevin, really nice guy, so I basically spent the day with him literally doing fifty takes of one scene and then thirty takes of another scene from 8 til 6:45 when I had to get on this CalacanisCast you’re the first person I’m talking too after this whole movie thing, but it’s pretty cool I acted pretty well.

Tyler: And it was probably because of his acting abilities that they needed so many takes, not yours right?


JASON: No, I think it’s just the director likes to take, these guys they were shooting on 35, but they like to have like a lot of different views.


Tyler: They were shooting on 35 and did fifty takes?


JASON: Yeah.


Tyler: Wow!


JASON: They basically did what I would say is gonna be, four minutes of film today. Maybe it’ll wind up being three or four minutes of film. But I basically have one scene where I talk and then one scene where I’m at a cocktail party like talking like you know right behind Josh. But cool dude and it was very cool to be on the set.


Tyler: Whose he playing in that?


JASON: What’s that?


Tyler: Whose he playing?


JASON: He plays an internet CEO from a internet company that’s sort of modeled after RazorFish.


Tyler: He’s not specifically playing somebody specific?


JASON: No, the protagonist is from a company called Land Shark. Basically like a Razor Fish kind of thing. They’re IPO’d they made a ton of money, but now they’re about to go under and tank.


Tyler: Yeah August 2001.


JASON: August 2001 which let me tell you something was a dark time. Not as dark as September though. So anyway it was very interesting, I basically spent a whole day on a film set and this is the second film I’ve done.


JASON: Services – I went out to lunch. You know I had the coffee, I’m try to lose weight, you know Kraft services is cheese is like grilled cheese and donuts, I mean basically the worst stuff you could do. Yeah and you know I had a big trip to Barcelona.


Tyler: I was gonna say it probably wasn’t much to look at after having eaten some tapas in Barcelona.


JASON: You saw the tapas on my Blog right? Pretty nice stuff right?


Tyler: Pretty nice stuff.


JASON: So anyway, good talking to you thanks for setting us up, everybody knows I’m in New York right now and you’re in the offices in L.A. at project X. Lot of speculation about project X, you see that online?


Tyler: It’s definitely boiling, getting to a boiling point.


JASON: People are speculating about oh did you see the Don Imus stuff?


Tyler: Yeah.


JASON: I mean where do people get this stuff from? It’s crazy right?


Tyler: ‘Cuz we use the same microphones as he does or something?


JASON: That must be it, this is the Nick Denton School of Journalism.


Tyler: He spotted out the microphone selection.


JASON: I think not only have I never spoken to Don Imus, not only would I never do business with him, I never listen to his show. I like Howard Stern, not a Don Imus guy. That guy’s like a zillion years old. Anyway. So that was ludicrous, and I’ll just say it here again, I’m absolutely not doing anything with Don Imus. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but it just shows the level of journalism at ValleyWag.


Tyler: Definitely, you know, it’s always hard to be on the receiving end of stuff like that you realize well gee I wonder how off they are on everything you also read about everybody else.


JASON: Right, if they’re absolutely so wrong about that story and you read eight stories a day you gotta think at least a couple more of those other stories are complete B.S. as well. But that’s the Nick Dentons School of Journalism its basically like the more outlandish it is you know the more crazy it is, who cares if it’s true, just you know let it out there.


Tyler: It’s almost so out there that you almost don’t I mean, I didn’t quite feel offended, you probably don’t feel offended because you don’t want to be associated with a Don Imus, but it’s so out of left field it’s almost comical.


JASON: It felt comical and I sorta laughed and I said wait a second. If people were thinking that I would be involved with somebody who was doing things like Don Imus was doing I mean it’s kind of offensive what he said it’s like the guy, I don’t know the man, I don’t know if he’s truly a racist or he just had a racist moment or whatever but, I mean, he probably is a racist if you say stuff like that.


Tyler: I didn’t even do the follow up to find out how he responded though.


JASON: Well I mean, racism is and racism does or something like that. If you say racist stuff I guess you’re a racist so, whatever, anyway, yes we’re not going into business with racists at Project X. Just for the record.


Tyler: Right for the record.


JASON: Okay so this CalacanisCast is brought to you of course by GoDaddy, thank you Godaddy, you put the little commercial at the beginning and also Podtech, Podtech we love Podtech, this is an MP3 you know, I don’t need video for this and when I get back to Project X we’re gonna do some more video.


Tyler: Great.


JASON: Okay I’ll talk to you soon - cheers.


Tyler: Alright. Bye.



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