Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Ready for His Close-Up: Quincy Smith on Wallstrip

Please see this disclosure related to me and CBS.

And what exactly did Quincy Smith get for handing over millions of dollars to the daily financial Web show, Wallstrip?

Well, to start, a cameo on its aggressively cute-as-ever episode yesterday. The jaunty president of CBS Digital wore sneakers with his uncomfortable-looking power suit as he gamely delivered his lines in a sendup of the site’s host–the also aggressively cute-as-ever Lindsay Campbell–arriving at the media giant’s headquarters in Manhattan without anyone caring.

Let’s hope that does not actually turn out to be the reality of the situation for the quirky creativity of Wallstrip, although I have an uneasy feeling it might be.

Let me first say that the site–like a lot of other video shows popping up daily on the Internet–is a breath of fresh air and is clearly a great direction for the medium to go in. Short, sassy, irreverent, yet helpful and even informative, and–most of all–cheap to produce and with an appealing host, creator Howard Lindzon has got the new-media formula just right.

Such sites hearten me, as I have spent a lot of time trying to find a genuine Internet hit. I am not talking about one-hit wonders like the whimsical cartoons of JibJab with their zillions of streams, but a true and sustained content play that attracts a loyal audience.

That, in turn, one assumes, will attract advertising dollars, especially if video is a major element, because video is the most explosive sector of the Web right now.

But it’s clear Wallstrip has very little in the way of revenue, even though it is building an audience. So, I wonder exactly how big a business it could become, as innovative as it is, inside a company that would probably just dearly love to keep making its nut from rolling out the “CSI” franchise to the end of time (“CSI: Scranton!”).

Given that interest often follows money in the entertainment business, I worry that Wallstrip could get treated like some exotic pet the higher-ups could easily tire of.

It’s not that the peripatetic Smith, who has been making the rounds of just about every major Web company, making online distribution deals for CBS content and trying to get it up to speed on every major digital trend (Joost? We’re in! Social networking? We’re in! Brown Zunes? Maybe not so much!), does not seem committed to trying.

The former Netscape executive and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, as well as New York investment banker, certainly gets points for effort and enthusiasm. His big boss, Les Moonves, is clearly giving him a lot of running room and support.

And it is decidedly interesting that the company has chosen to remain somewhat neutral in its online associations and is placing a lot of bets all over the Web.

That is especially so compared with other media behemoths, who are trying to join the digital arena in what looks to me like elephants trying to dance together. Which will be, I am guessing, not so pretty, but seriously entertaining.

Moonves, in fact, will be at our D conference next week, where we can grill him on all this and more (and you can see it all on video clips and live blogs we will post during the event).


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I’ve said I want to die on Mars. Just not on impact.

— Elon Musk, speaking at South by Southwest about his desire to travel to Mars