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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Barry Diller at Web 2.0

I’m down at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco this week for the Web 2.0 Conference. The big kick-off session today was a “fireside chat” between John Battelle, one of the conference’s organizers, and Barry Diller, CEO of InterActive Corp.

The most interesting exchanges, to me, were about user-generated video, and whether Diller, a former media mogul (Paramount, Fox, ABC, QVC) who evolved into an Internet mogul (Expedia,, Ask Jeeves) might one day again become a media mogul.

Diller essentially said yes.

“I absolutely see my company getting involved in making a product, in the vernacular…producing, financing, and distributing a filmed, or taped, or digital product, whether that’s a TV show, a movie, or whatever form it takes.”

Convergence as a buzzword is back. Diller said that the Net and traditional media and news and entertainment are on a certain collision course. “I think it’s going to be one world.” That “brings about a potential change-up of the players.”

New digital tool have already changed the way media gets made, just not how it is distributed. “Everything is going to end up being in digits. Making [entertainment] is already there. Distribution is going to get there. We’ve built up some expertise in this other way of distributing content," Diller said.

Diller’s a big believer in finding content through the search box (which is why he acquired Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion in March)… but he also feels human editors will endure – smart people who will guide you to the good stuff.

Diller is kind of a believer in user-generated content – he mentioned the profiles on, which users submit in hopes of finding a mate – but not really in Average Joes producing interesting video content. “There’s not that much talent in the world, and talent always outs. There aren’t that many [talented] people in that many closets in the world – and they will out.”

“People with talent won’t be displaced by 18 million people producing stuff they think will have appeal,” Diller said. (The exception he cited is wacky “America’s Funniset Home Videos”-style content, which presumably doesn't require talent to produce.)

Writer J.D. Lasica asked a great question during the Q&A period. Essentially, it was this: Isn’t micro-content the great promise of the Internet?

Diller said he didn’t think big media content obviates micro-content. He clarified where he was coming from: “We’re talking about mass audiences and mass engines of communication and entertainment.” User-generated things will occupy a portion of people’s attention. But “there is never enough talent. I don’t think it’s hiding out somewhere.”