Back in July of last year, I wrote my first NSFW column for TechCrunch. Having just been fired from the Guardian, I described my hiring as a “ridiculously misguided experiment” and gave Mike Arrington three weeks – at best – until he “comes to his senses and realises that there’s a reason why I’ve been fired from every job I’ve had.”
To their credit, TechCrunch readers agreed: even now, almost 40 weeks later, barely a week goes by without somebody demanding to know why I haven’t been fired, usually while accusing me of only adding the letters NSFW to each of my columns to trick people into reading them. “How exactly is this Not Safe For Work?” they cry, having wasted five minutes of their otherwise 100% productive lives searching my latest anti-iPad screed for the merest hint of female nudity.
It’s amazing really. Even after I published the entire text of my book – about how I managed to get fired even from companies that I actually founded – on TechCrunch, people still don’t get the point. It’s not the content of my writing that’s Not Safe For Work, it’s me.
But it’s one thing for TC readers – most of whom haven’t met me, let alone worked with me – not to understand how unemployable I am. It’s quite another thing for someone who knows me, has worked with me (and repeatedly threatened to fire me) and who has read my entire story of failure to decide that, despite all that, they still want to hire me into a position of serious responsibility.
And yet, that’s precisely what just happened.
The whole weird turn of events began when I hopped on the Caltrain down to Palo Alto to visit TechCrunch HQ and see its brand new video studio. You only have to glance at today’s headlines on Mediagazer (Techmeme’s new media news aggregator) to realise that online video is big business right now. According to one headline from AdWeek, “most marketers plan to up their online video ad spending in 2010″ – while NewTeeVee leads with the story that “One quarter of online videos are viewed in primetime” – suggesting that online viewing, long seen as an at-work addition to traditional broadcasting, is starting to make inroads into mainstream viewing habits.
Clearly any media organisation that isn’t looking seriously at online video now is doing themselves and their audience a huge disservice. Indeed, as became apparent during my studio tour, TechCrunch has decided to make a serious commitment to the medium.
Really, they’re not messing around: from building the studio and outfitting it with a dazzling array of broadcast-quality equipment to investing in industry-standard editing, streaming and advertising infrastructure, everything about TC’s TV plans screams “we’re really fucking serious about this stuff”. (Of course you’ll have to take my word for that given that launch is still several weeks away, and many of the current TC videos still look like they were produced on a 1980s camcorder).
Given this level of professionalism, then, and the investment that Mike and Heather have made to make sure TCTV will be required viewing for anyone with a passionate interest in the world of technology start-ups and entrepreneurship, their next move was curious to the point of lunacy.
They’ve hired me to run it.
Me who has spent the past two years profiting off my unemployable. Me who vowed never to be involved in another start-up, or to be in charge of anything ever again. Me who just finished writing a book and was giving serious thought to spending the next six months lying on a beach.
The negotiation took about ten minutes. I mean, who doesn’t want to run their own TV station?
That was about a little over a month ago, and since then I’ve been spending my days down at TCHQ, filling whiteboards with show ideas, figuring out how to fit those shows into 168 hours of schedule each week, taking talented people for lunch and convincing them to join our line-up of hosts – and generally figuring out what this gigantic, ambitious, expensive thing should look like.
Of course it goes without saying that, from a technical standpoint, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing: I’m a content person (writer, editor, publisher) not a broadcasting or technology person – so I’ve also been busily surrounding myself with people who having been doing that stuff for years. It’s a super-steep learning curve but thanks to a lot of people’s hard work, and Mike and Heather’s completely misguided trust and support, the finished product is shaping up to be great.
There’s still a ridiculous amount to be done between now and launch, and it’ll be at least another week before we’re ready to announce any of our starting line up of shows, or even the exact launch date. But, to whet your appetite ahead of what I’m already calling the Online TV Launch Of The Decade, here’s what I can say…
TechCrunch TV will go live next month. Broadcasting online (and soon possibly elsewhere) 24 hours a day, the channel’s focus will be on the people behind the stories you read on TC every day: the entrepreneurs, developers, venture capitalists, angels and assorted geniuses who are building companies from Silicon Valley to Serbia and beyond.
It goes without saying that all of our shows will also be available on demand — as streamable, downloadable, embeddable and sharable clips as soon as they’re broadcast. We’ll also be heavily integrating Twitter and other feedback tools into our live shows so you’ll be able to interact directly with the leading lights of the start-up world. Right from the start, TCTV will be hitting the road: for those attending TC Disrupt in New York, there’ll be a TCTV booth where you can talk about your start-up, or just share your opinion, live on air. (Well, almost live – we’re not idiots.) For those not heading to Disrupt, we’ll be hosting live coverage of the event on all three days, including bonus commentary and behind the scenes footage.
And that’s just the start. Like everyone else, we’re still figuring this stuff out, so if you have strong ideas about what you’d like to see on TCTV, by all means let me know.
For my part, despite my best efforts, I have a new full-time job – and for the first time in more than two years I’m really excited by the idea. Much like when I was running my own start-ups, I’m working with a team of smart, dedicated people; building something innovative and exciting from the ground up. But unlike with my own start-ups, I get to be responsible for product strategy and all the fun creative stuff while someone else signs the checks and makes it all pay. As anyone who has ever worked with me (or who knew me when I was carrying a Friday Project company credit card) will testify, this is very much a good thing.
I give it three weeks.