Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

College Humor Dudes Grow Up, Move Into Dad’s House

090909ATDvanveenCollege Humor dude Ricky Van Veen has graduated from his old gig to a new one, running a TV and Web video production company for Barry Diller. But he’s not leaving his old crew behind: They’re about to pack up and follow him to Diller’s IAC headquarters.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote about a corporate real estate move before, but this one strikes me as interesting: Ever since Diller bought up College Humor in 2006, a big part of the site’s identity has been its distance from its corporate masters.

Diller and company worked out of a shiny and imposing new structure designed by Frank Gehry; his new charges got their own play room (one big enough to accommodate a taco truck) across town.

I always thought the College Humor guys got a better deal. The IAC building has great views and a lobby with a trailer-sized video screen, but it’s in a really inaccessible location along the West Side Highway at the edge of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. College Humor’s real estate didn’t have an architectural pedigree, but its location near Union Square was really easy to get to–and a good place to host a beer pong tourney, if necessary.

Anyway, now you get to pick your metaphor. Either the College Humor guys are growing up and moving into an adult office or they’re boomeranging back to daddy.

Probably some of both. Diller has plenty of cash on hand at IAC (IACI), but there’s no reason to burn it on a lease when he has empty office space to fill.

And College Humor is an increasingly grown-up business. Two of the company’s four co-founders have moved on, and remaining co-founder Josh Abramson, who will continue to oversee his company, has been known to wear a pocket square.

Meanwhile Van Veen is running Notional, a new venture that is supposed to translate College Humor’s acumen at making funny, cheap and popular Web video aimed at twenty-something guys into a production company that makes cheap, popular Web video and TV shows for all sorts of audiences.

Here’s an interview I taped with Van Veen in his new building last month, where he noodles on the future of entertainment and explains how he and former NBC executive Ben Silverman will work together.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work