Barry Diller at #SXSW: Net Neutrality and Traditional Media Disruption

In What's the Buzz by Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson

Barry Diller, interviewed by CNN Anchor Poppy Harlow at South by Southwest 2011:

Barry Diller at SXSW 2011

IAC Chairman and Senior Executive Barry Diller was interviewed today at SXSW in front of a full house by CNN anchor Poppy Harlow. Diller has been a hugely influential force in media for the last three decades, holding positions including CEO of Paramount Pictures, CEO of Fox, Inc, and most recently (until December 2010) CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorps — an internet company whose brands include Newsweek.com, The Daily Beast, Vimeo, Citysearch and Match.com, among many others.

The conversation touched on a number of hot-button issues facing internet and media companies, most notably net neutrality and how the internet is disrupting the traditional media business models.

Digital News Content

In November 2010, Newsweek merged with the Daily Beast to form a new joint venture under IAC. Of this partnership, Diller said that it was an experiment to combine an iconic print brand and its journalistic process with the mechanics and infrastructure of the internet. The concept of a weekly magazine is “increasingly irrelevant,” said Diller, but the depth of reporting that Newsweek provides adds a great deal of value online.

As a caveat to his support for new formats and online distribution, he took a shot at Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only news app, The Daily. “I don’t know why you would want to make something for a single, closed system . . . no closed system will work.”

Net Neutrality

Diller is a passionate supporter of net neutrality and told the audience, “we need an unambiguous rule that nobody will step between the publisher and consumer. Full stop.” While internet providers have not yet begun to favor certain content over others just yet, Diller attributes this to luck. To the argument that net neutrality laws will impede infrastructure investment, Diller was adamant that this was a “hugely profitable” investment opportunity for many companies and that net neutrality would not change that. “Nobody can be on the highway choking or demanding tribute.”

Media Disruption

“There’s no question that everything will be open” in the future, said Diller. “Working in one form factor, one distribution system, is kind of pointless.”

When asked about the impact that Google TV and other online video services will have on traditional cable and television networks, Diller said that the networks were like a group of people, standing on a train track gesturing for oncoming trains like Google TV to stop. The train is coming and “it does not matter what [networks] do.”

But the good news is that this open system is that “there’s nothing between you and the consumer.” The internet allows entrepreneurs and content creators to turn their ideas and interests into businesses.

“There’s a nice vibration that happens here” at SXSW, Diller noted. He attributed this positive atmosphere to the fact that the conference and experience was “dominated by nobody,” just like the neutral, open internet he is pushing for.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.