Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Kara Visits Joost HQ in London: Restarting the Start-Up (With a Little Help From Its "Friends")!

Well, here’s a good reason not to write off Joost quite yet: When the London-based company officially debuts its new Web-based service in mid-October, it will have some pretty hot content with its half-dozen seasons of the former NBC hit, “Friends.”

Also, there will finally be no more irksome plug-ins.

In other words, anyone with an Internet connection can watch streaming television shows and movies on Joost, with advertising embedded in various forms.

There will also be social-networking elements–you can see what your friends watch and form groups, make comments with cool tools and the rest of that sort of thing.

While all this is not going to make up for the lost time the online video service has wasted with its annoying P2P-based desktop client download, going to a Web-based, all-Flash service with more robust content is certainly the right way to stop rival service Hulu from continuing to clean Joost’s clock.

Joost was first out of the gate last year with a giant slug of funding, fancy founders (Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, who were also founders of Web phenoms Skype and Kazaa) and blue-chip investors (Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures, as well as CBS, Viacom and wealthy Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing).

In any case, Hulu quickly grabbed the lead in terms of press praise (I ate my words even!), ease-of-use and, most importantly, user numbers.

In the most recent stats, for example, Hulu had more than 100 million monthly video streams and 3.3 million unique monthly visitors. (But since Joost has just soft-launched its new Web-only service, it’s hard to make comparisons just yet, although the competition is now clearly afoot!)

And, although it has been written off by some, I do not think it is too late for Joost.

First, it is still early in the premium online video game.

Second, success will depend on having increasing amounts of quality content. And Joost–with CBS, Warner Bros., Sony and other unusual content like anime–certainly can keep up with Hulu’s programs from its partner parents, News Corp. (News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones and this Web site) and NBC Universal.

Lastly, despite decent consumer uptake, the business is still in its nascent popcorn-stand stage of revenue and profit generation.

And while spending too much money and having too many employees did not help Joost, it seems as though CEO Mike Volpi has finally gotten control of the start-up beast.

Thus, while in London this week, I stopped in at the offices of Joost (near the famed King’s Cross train station, where, of course–to no avail–I tried to make it through the wall at Platform 9 3/4!) to chat with Volpi about all the changes at the much-hyped company.

Here’s a longish video, in which the always-well-turned-out former Cisco exec talks about all that and more:

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo