Intellectual Riches from the Fortune Brainstorming Tech Conference

July 22, 2008

Harrods Creek is a long way from Half Moon Bay, California. Thanks to the modern technology available here in the hills among the possums and the rabbits, I have been able to follow some of the action at the Fortune Brainstorming Tech Conference. Fortune, as you know, is the Batman of business magazines, and it uses its glittering reputation to corral big thinkers to brainstorm.

One of the most interesting articles about this conference is Stefanie Olsen’s “Viacom CEO: Great Content Is King”. I hope this discussion among Viacom, Verizon Communications, and Google finds its way to YouTube. Please, read Ms. Olsen’s full text report here.

What stopped me in my tracks was this quote from the brainstorming cyclone from Time Warner, owner of Fortune Brainstorming Tech Conference:

We [Viacom] have vast libraries of content, and we are able to find new audiences thanks to emerging distribution. People in Asia are discovering Beavis and Butt-head and it hasn’t been in the United States for seven years…For us, it’s about finding more and more places to put it.

Google’s Vint Cerf asked a Googley question about if “content and distribution of content will be separate going forward?” This is a darn good question. The Viacom and Verizon executives’ answers, in my opinion, were muddled. In my opinion, I don’t think either the Viacom or the Verizon executive knew what Mr. Cerf meant. His question was a lot clearer to me than the answers given to Mr. Cerf.

As I understand, Viacom’s answer, creating and distributing are different but the two are joined by an economic interest. And Verizon emphasize that Verizon is all about the network.

Okay. I must admit I don’t know what these two executives are trying to tell me. Viacom’s intellectual riches include Beavis and Butt-head, who have earning power in China. The Verizon person talks about network, and my last dealings with the company involved a charge for data services in Canada where the data service was explicitly not supposed to work. No one cared about that $300 charge. I just paid the bill and concluded that Verizon is about charging me for services that are not supposed to work outside the US. I paid a price for my curiosity.)

I am still laughing about the reference to Beavis and Butt-head in the context of the Fortune Brainstorming Tech Conference. If this is tech from Fortune, I am glad I live in rural Kentucky, and I am delighted that I dropped my Fortune subscription. I wonder if there are any reruns of Beavis and Butt-head on my Apple TV?

Stephen Arnold, July 22, 2008


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