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Jason Pontin

A View from Jason Pontin

D3: Barry Diller Won't Buy a Cow on his Phone

Kara is chatting with Barry Diller, who has filled just about every senior position a person can fill in American media: he headed Paramount, Studios, created Fox Broadcasting, energized QVC, and is now the Chairman and CEO of InterActive Corp,…

  • May 24, 2005

Kara is chatting with Barry Diller, who has filled just about every senior position a person can fill in American media: he headed Paramount, Studios, created Fox Broadcasting, energized QVC, and is now the Chairman and CEO of InterActive Corp, which owns a variety of sites like Evite, Citysearch, and Expedia. Diller talks intelligently, and Kara asks interesting questions. She asks where the hits will come from in the future: doffing her cap to Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail,” she wonders, “What happens when the distribution curve becomes much more dispersed?” Diller answers, “If you tell a great story, one or two million people will pick it up.” In other words, the hits will be much smaller. Diller supports the idea of “gates”–that is, the discipline of pleasing a market. “It’s a good thing that things don’t get through”–presumably because most stuff is no good–“so for God’s sake, don’t take editors away.” At the same time, he argues that media products created to satisfy market research are always bad. Kara asks Diller about search technologies. He champions Ask Jeeves, which IAC has just invested in, over Google. Ask Jeeves, Diller says, provides better, more intelligent contextual results. He hints that he will change Ask Jeeves’s asinine name and drop the stupid branding of a fictional, British manservant . He says that all his sites are not so much technology shops (unlike Google, by implication), but media companies. Speaking about wireless, Diller defends the idea of interactive home shopping (the original idea behind his investment in QVC): “I don’t think that people are going to buy things like a dress or a cow when they’re on the move.” Kara: “A cow?” Barry: “Particularly not a cow.”

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