We love the dapper, arch, erudite Michael Wolff, media critic for some rag or other (actually, New York). Beautiful article on how famous people congregate, how normal they seem among each other, and why. (Fame requires you to watch from the outside in, nose pressed to glass. When famous people “hang,” are they actually doing those things?) Wolff, of course, wrote Burn Rate, the memoir of his own online failures that itself bashes AOL into a pulp in the most genteel and respectable way possible.
Wolff has, however, recently put his foot in it. In an interview, he says:
“It is becoming increasingly less clear how you make a substantial amount of money in the media business. There’s significantly more competition. Every day there are new forms of media, which are all competing with the older forms. And there is enormous technological uncertainty. So it becomes less and less clear how to make advertising work in an efficient way.”
Q. What do you think is the long-term prognosis for content sites like iVillage, Salon and TheStreet.com?
A. I think it’s dead. I think it’s over with; it’s gone. There is no long-term prognosis. The patient has died. There is no future.
Q. So do you see these sites possibly shutting down some day?
A. I do.
Q. Is content no longer king?
A. Well, I don’t think content was ever king. I think it just didn’t work. It’s more fundamental than whether it’s content or distribution or whatever. The Internet as media has failed. It wasn’t interesting to any of the parties involved, essentially. People didn’t want to pay for content, and there was no way to generate money out of content. It didn’t work for advertisers, and it’s not going to work. The Internet works as an infrastructure that moves lots of different kinds of information. But in terms of being “the media business” per se – forget about it.
Online, megalomania equates with hubris, and hubris invites retribution. Think small, work smart, and hire just the right number of staff and you’ll make it.
And if you blow it, write a book. After all, Michael Wolff did.
(Oddball coincidence: We once wrote an article for a company
<slash>magazine Wolff founded, NetGuide, on the topic of online music communities. Ahead of our time, as usual. We doubt this constitutes a conflict of interest.)
Posted on 2001-01-12