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Hypergene MediaBlog » Not what we were hoping for
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Not what we were hoping for

Merill Brown gave the opening speech at the 3rd Annual Online News Association Conference last week. We were unable to attend but looked forward to reading the transcript of the usually quotable Mr. Brown. For those unfamiliar, Mr. Brown helped launch the wildly popular news site. He is now working at RealOne Services.

What makes the transcript worthy of a post is precisely because it has no original thoughts in it. That is a shame. In this economic drought, editors and news executives are thirsty for new ideas. Mr. Brown served them nothing but outdated ideas of convergence while reinforcing the mentality that the Internet community should still be viewed like an TV audience. For example: “Video will be routinely viewed on handhelds and in cars, planes, buses and trains,” Brown said.  “Our content will be distributed around the world via refrigerators, clock radios, and via ubiquitous handheld devices.” Refrigerators? Give us a break, puhlease!

Staci Kramer over at OJR serves up this complete overview of the ONA conference, noting Brown’s one valuable piece of advice to online news creators “… press your bosses and their bosses to demonstrate the same patience the cable industry showed in building its array of services just a few years back.”

Don’t get us wrong. Merill’s a bright guy, and will probably do some great things at Real - a company sorely in need of some vision. Maybe we’re off base with our reaction to Brown’s speech. Leave us a comment and tell us what we’re missing.

Posted on Oct 23, 2002 | 3:34 pm EST

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I was at ONA and saw Mr. Brown’s speech. Your critique is right on the money; the keynote could have been a lot better.

The rest of the conference, though, made up for it.

Posted by: Adrian on Oct 23, 02 | 5:54 pm EST

Ha! Check this out. Turns out Mr. Brown was right—refrigerators are indeed the wave of the future.

Posted by: Adrian on Oct 24, 02 | 10:21 am EST

This isn’t the first Internet fridge. Other companies have had fridges, soda machines, ovens and other wacky concepts for years. The one Mossberg is reviewing just the latest. Mossberg, ever wise, notes “Right now, this is an amusing, even slightly silly, toy for the rich.”

Posted by: shayne on Oct 24, 02 | 11:28 am EST

I’m glad that I’m not the only person who thought Merrill’s speech was dull, dated, and dead.

Moreover (no Nick Denton pun intended, although read my other parenthetical comment below), Merrill was flummoxed when, after his speech, Richard Anderson of, asked why the speech mentioned only corporate media companies use of the Internet and only ‘one-to-many’ traditional media usage of the Internet (i.e., we reporters write, you consumer read) and nothing about any of the ‘many-to-many’ journalistic potentials or community journalistic interactions of the Internet.

Merrill seemed not the understand the question of any of its imports, and gave no answer. That reinforced my opinion of Merrill as yet another traditional media executive who sees the Internet as just a digital antenna for traditional practices and fare.

(Hmmm? Nick Denton. Now, there’s someone who should have been giving the keynote address to the ONA. Like Merrill, Nick is a former journalist turned businessman. He went on to create, the First Tuesdays new media gatherings in Europe and other continents, and is now pioneering hos to use and commercialize webblogs for media (both new and traditional media) purposes. He looks forward, not backward, and has accomplished a lot more for online journalism than Merrill or other retro stars. There are plenty of innovative pioneers, like Nick, who should be giving such addresses, rather than having a former MSNBC executive who did little more than manage a large web site for news.)

Posted by: Vin Crosbie on Oct 27, 02 | 9:41 am EST

Here, here! Nick Denton would be a great speaker for ONA.

Posted by: shayne on Oct 27, 02 | 10:48 am EST


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