David Rose: Investments Need To Generate Cash

David Rose, NY Angels founder and head of investment incubator RoseTech Ventures, says his potential portfolio companies today must make money in a way they didn’t have to a year ago.

In early 2008, Rose would help start a business presuming venture capitalists and others would soon come kick in more. Today, “we can’t assume there will be anyone after us with a follow-on round,” he said at a NY:MIEG breakfast event at the Samsung Experience in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. “We are really only looking at businesses that can get to profitability” on their own, and show growth, then, perhaps, get more investment in 2-3 years. The panel, titled, “The Economic Downturn’s Impact on Media & Entertainment,” explored how business has changed for media and technology businesses in recent months, and what prospects may be.

Rose was on the panel with Andrew Cleland, Executive Director of Alliances and Technology Strategy of Time Warner, and Robert Rechti, who is a senior VP and Industry Advisor for GE Commercial Finance’s Media, Communications and Entertainment business. Dale Peskin, co-founder of iFOCOS, host of February’s We Media conference in Miami, moderated. Cleland and Rechti both said they hold to the same principles as before the economy tanked, doing due diligence, though they may now look for more cash flow and flexible business plans, and be more selective in their deals.

(Note: My company, Teeming Media, has done business with both NY:MIEG and We Media.)

NY Times Digital Version More Valuable

While the NY Times may not earn enough from its digital iterations to support its operations (even minus the printing costs), I do believe the digital version is more valuable. Reader comments on one of today’s front page articles, about the boom in self-publishing, give useful details from those readers that were not included in the article. Hearing Nick Kristoff’s interviews or watching videos he’s produced from overseas, I get texture and nuance not available from his columns, wonderfully written though they be. Of course, just because there is value there does not mean it will be rewarded at a level that can support it. The creativity of the journalists and production people must be matched by creative thinking and acting from the business and finance sides.

Thoughts on Newspapers Becoming Not-for-Profits

A NY Times Op Ed today suggests newspapers should move to a foundation-supported model and become 501(c)3 not-for-profits. Through that model, with its tax advantages, the newspaper business can survive, the authors write.

My thoughts on the idea are here. To sum up a longish essay: For-profit can work in the news biz, just maybe not the way newspapers practice it.

How to be a Successful Media Entrepreneur

The expanded version of pointers from a bunch of successful folks in digital media.

The Future (and Threat To) TV, and TiVO

On Wednesday’s “Naked Media” live show (soon to be available on demand at NakedMedia.org), Web TV entrepreneur (and long-time TV animation executive) Fred Seibert talked about how TiVo brought a lot of viewers to the programs on his Next New Networks, home of everything from car enthusiast shows to Obama Girl on “Barely Political” to shows for people crazy for comic books. He said that TiVo, hungry for content to distribute to TiVo subscribers, had struck deals with Web content providers like his company. Fred gets distribution to a new audience (and more views for ads). TiVo gets more content to subscribers paying their monthly fees.

TiVo, thus, becomes a box that not only allows time-shifting of traditional TV and ad-skipping, but also viewing of quality Web content on the TV as well. That’s something a lot of consumers don’t realize.

Later, at the Future of TV conference in midtown Manhattan, TiVO’s VP and GM, Audience Research and Measurement Todd Juenger said he didn’t like the traditional ways of classifying audience for advertising measurement purposes, that demographic groupings, such as women ages 18-49, were a far-from-perfect proxy for what advertisers really want. Procter & Gamble, where he once worked, is interested in women who want to use a particular product in a particular way: women interested buying a detergent with a particular smell, for example. That’s much more important than their age or any other group measurement. Beer companies would love to know if a household tends to buy Budweiser or Miller -- something, Juenger said, TiVo can tell when it maps the household to data from a grocery story shopping card such as that provided by the company Experion.

TiVo, thus becomes not just a measurement box, but the means by which an advertiser can serve ads more perfectly targeted to a household.

But TiVo, while a triple threat, also faces a threat. I asked Juenger whether the Internet was threatening his company just as his company threatens ad revenues for broadcast and cable TV. He said he felt there was room for it all, that TV screens are the better experience and that TiVo was bringing programming to people over those screens.

Well, yes. But. What about the increasing improvement in screens of all types, the desire for people to watch what they want wherever, however? Later at the conference, both a Fox executive and ABC's Rick Mandler pointed out that while the audience was still miniscule, the viewership of their programs on computer screens was growing (and they could build players for computers that didn't allow ad skipping). Seibert said he would provide his programming on any screen where people were demanding it. There’s not yet enough viewership on mobile screens like iPhones, he said, but as soon as there is, he’ll be signing distribution deals. And, when there is, where will TiVo be? If TiVo’s main value proposition is showing stuff on a TV hooked up to its machine, and that becomes irrelevant because Hulu or ABC.com or the Roku box hooked up to Netflix, or Apple TV provides the programming on-demand -- what would that do to TiVo’s business?

Watch Fred Seibert on Naked Media, Noon ET!

Can Anyone Make it as a (Web Video) Entrepreneur?

Fred Siebert, founder of Next New Networks, will stop by the Scribe Studio on January 21 to talk about making the transition from network television heavy-weight to scrappy new media entrepreneur.

Join us for this live video webcast.

Fred Seibert is not only an award-winning cartoon producer who lead the remake of Nickelodeon into a leading cable network and was the original creative director for MTV. He also is the co-founder of Next New Networks, the Web-based home of Barely Political (hosted by Obama Girl) and ultra-niche networks for auto racing fanatics, comic-book enthusiasts. NNN has raised more than $23 million in funding from high profile venture firms like Spark Capital and Goldman Sachs, and recently brought on former MTV and Nickelodeon exec Lance Podell as CEO.

Seibert is plain-spoken and refreshingly candid about everything from how he’s raised money, to whether Web-based video like his can turn a profit, how he goes about finding talented people and turning their ideas into a businesses like the new blogging tool Tumblr and more — all while admitting huge failures, including one just a decade ago that cost him nearly every dollar he had.

Naked Media host (and MediaFlect author) Dorian Benkoil and Seibert will talk about the plans for Next New Networks, being an entrepreneur, and what anyone can learn from his triumphs and mistakes. Expect a wide-ranging, fun and frank discussion instructive for anyone in the media business today.

Concerns Over "The Infinite TiVo"

Screenwriter John August writes that federal authorities should limit Comcast's ability to provide DVR services based at Comcast's facilities because that will effectively remove the desire for repeats and the residuals that come with them, as well as DVDs and the like. After all, if a consumer can get any TV show or movie they want at any time -- via, say, a function that tells Comcast to "record all," and then deciding later whether and what to watch, why would anyone every need to watch (or TiVO) a rerun, buy a show's DVD, etc. And, therefore, how would writers make money off the residuals and DVD sales, etc, August asks.

But the solution is probably not in limiting Comcast's use of the technology -- which introduces efficiencies by obviating the need for home storage and potentially letting Comcast record once but play many times -- but rather in the business model. If Comcast gets permission to do what it's proposing but there's also a way for everyone to get paid fairly, shouldn't that work?

The technology will ultimately make everything available on-demand, all the time, to multiple devices. Residuals will eventually dry up, at least in the form they're practiced today. So, shouldn't the issue be compensation rather than limiting the use of the technology? (And wouldn't some say the market would solve this, because folks won't make the content Comcast needs unless they get compensated?)

I found August's site via a link from Ze Frank, the Web-based artist and thinker and gatherer and whatever else you want to call him behind a jillion viral hits and community experiments on the Web. I'm writing about him today in an essay for the We Media Game Changer awards.

"Shallow Thoughts:" We Need Biochip Implants

This one's about how we all need biochip implants so we can consume media as quickly as we download it.

Part of the "Naked Media" show. Most recent episode: Five Things to Change Your (Digital) Life, with Amy Webb of Webb Media Group.

Experimenting With Openness in Academe

Today, I've made public the social network my students and I used in my MBA-level digital marketing class at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch. (I first gave the students multiple chances and notices to delete any material they did not want the world to see -- during the class, whose grading period formally ended yesterday, I wanted all to be in a "safe" environment free from possible embarrassment, employment risks, etc.). It's here, including dozens of links to articles, etc, from the students and me.

This was an experiment. I tried to at least stick our toes in the water with the kinds of openness so many of our readings and lessons touted; as for politicians, so too for companies. Eventually, it seems, dissonance between public persona and private reality will eventually come out -- whether Wall Street analysts recommending one way publicly and another in private, political misdeeds or, even, the ever-secretive world of private equity.

I admit some misgivings about making all this public. After all, if I let anyone see the syllabus and my responses to assignments and readings, what’s to stop anyone from just taking that material and using it as their own (I created this course and it’s MY intellectual property, no?). On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that I reached out to a network on Linked In and got a dozen or so helpful responses from others who shared their thoughts and expertise when I was constructing the course. I found the textbook we used through an Amazon.com recommendation on another book someone had recommended. And I hope any embarrassment I might face over revealing my comments and so on will more than be made up for by insights from others who weigh in. I am, in a sense, forcing myself to improve, to keep learning, to make the class be better next time I teach it.

My department chair, too, has experimented with a Ning network for the marketing department, but others in the university guard their syllabi like Faberge eggs, and demand that students neither record nor post nor mention what’s happened in class, on a test and so on. As we see pressure for openness from digital technologies in other fields, we see it too, in the world of academe. A number of business schools have started posting material openly online.

As for the students, I found it intriguing how some took to the network avidly -- one even helped reconstruct the network to make it more useful -- while others shied from it and continually sent me private notes I encouraged them to make public. The students' weekly assignments were posted publicly, as were discussions, videos and more. Many enhanced and commented ib each others' material (some of course, tried to shirk assignments by simply commenting on what colleagues said.) I can say that I learned from the students' public sharing in a way I might not have had they not shared and discussed with each other, and the level of discussion improved both on the network and in class, as well. It's been a learning experience for me, and I believe the next classes I teach will be enhanced. I also hope the experience for students will continually get better.

One point that didn't work: I had started the class hoping the reading list would change and meld over time as we shared and enhanced each others’ readings and discussion. That part of the experiment didn’t completely work, in part because many of the students are very busy -- with other courses, full-time jobs, families -- and preferred to have a more pre-set structure telling them exactly what to expect throughout the term. I’d be grateful for suggestions here.