Lack of Passion? 10 Years Post-AOL/TWX: CNBC Interview –

Interesting 10 year reflection on AOL/TWX by Gerry Levin and Steve Case. You can enjoy it yourself with the embedded video below from CNBC, but here's some snippets of interesting quotes and comments:

-- "Worst deal of the decade...apparently" (referring to recent NYT article)
-- "It's not a supermarket -- it's a mall" (describing what the Internet business became versus what they had anticipated as a valued walled garden)
-- "We're not a capitalist country anymore" (commenting on how government regulation has taken control of major companies)

  • Mea culpa with comments about needs for compassion and missionary zeal -- seemingly at a loss from other people and not themselves -- and evidently Levin's fault that the company didn't have it. Would that have made a difference? Very interesting rear-view mirror...
  • Compassion and love? Vision and execution. Losing that when they put the companies together. Blaming it today on the baggage, Wall Street, and not innovating for customers. Who was going to innovate and how were they rewarded for it? Not much on too much hype and not enough creating something new.
  • Citing positive examples of Time and Turner integrations -- not the best of examples either and the level of friction and loss had been tremendous.
  • "Going to the mountaintop of expectations" and "falling from grace" -- strangely self-grandiose, biblical, and not a rolling-up-the-sleeves humility
  • Comparing community of AOL to Twitter..."AOL was the Internet." Sounded vaguly like "coulda been a contenda."
  • "I would want to be on the forefront of the media somewhere and not holding the old media bag."

You'd think that they were reading what I just spent the last week writing...which will show up as excerpts here soon. Happy 2010.

A new look at an old space — birth of radio in the US

It wasn't until I was working on materials for my Media 2015 class this week, which is on the past 100 years in broadcasting, that I had a dawning glimmer about early radio.

There is a lot written and referred to about the various NBC radio networks and how the FCC from 1940 required them to spin off/sell NBC Blue, which became ABC over time (and after buying the name).

What is well written about but not focused on in the business lingo as much is how early radio was very much like early Internet. Individuals and small companies broadcast podcast-like music and discussions -- way before there was advertising or a business model to support it. Westinghouse's first radio station, often touted as the birth of broadcast radio, was from a shack built on the top of their building by one of their engineers, who had been broadcasting from home.

Also interesting was the interplay between newspapers and that early radio. At first, 2,000 newspapers were eager to showcase the playlists and schedule of the first radio station, that KDKA in Pittsburgh. Years later, radio news was thrown off of the wire services, as newspapers realized it was competing for customers.

We focus so much on the Internet and the "official" business models of Big Media that we sometimes forget that much of media in the US has been the world of small players and local interests. We also forget that this is a special place here...where much of media in other countries is government owned. And media is often family owned and not just the big corporate world that we seem to revere or fear.

The Internet brings back that peer-to-peer that actually thrived for the first time with early radio. And versus radio, which had to struggle with AT&T for national carriage across the miles, we have nearly instantaneous fibers, but with some of those same carriers, to carry those messages between communities...but take that speed of space and time for granted.

More to follow.