My pal Jeff Jarvis just responded to my jabs about his NPR comments (“the Internet kills networks”), but ads the million dollar question:
Jason: What do AOL and Time Warner executives think about you speaking for them? Having worked there, I have to imagine they’re getting rashes.”
Well, first off, that’s a loaded question. Clearly I don’t speak for AOL–I speak for two companies: Calacanis, Inc. and Weblogs, Inc.
However, even at Weblogs, Inc. I’m just one of many voices. Brian, Peter, Judith, Shawn, Barb, and Ryan speak for Weblogs, Inc. as much as I do. We’re a flat organization and I don’t see my opinion as any more important or relevant then their opinions. In fact, I frequently refer the press and speaking gigs to rest of the team (i.e. Shawn commenting on the NPR story). So, WIN have many voices… including the 140+ bloggers who can talk to the press any time they want.
Now, if you rephrase the question as “What does AOL think my blogging?” the answer is:
They love it.
I’ve been given 110% support by the entire management team at AOL, and the folks in the trenches at AOL are great, hardworking people. I’m getting all kinds of love from around the company, and I’ve been involved in some great debates. Big companies need folks like me to stir the pot, so I think things have changed since you were here. They’ve changed at all big companies (i.e. Microsoft’s massive blog movement).
We had long talks before we did this deal about how my (blunt) style would work inside a very large company like AOL. We all agreed that it was best that I keep doing what I’m doing. The PR department has been amazing to me. They must read my blog, but they’ve never told me what to say or how to blog. They trust me, I trust them, and we’re all smart people. Now, if I make some mistake at some point (which will probably happen) we’ll deal with it. Heck, folks from big companies speak at conferences all the time. I don’t see how blogging is much different (except of course that there is a record of it–which is a difference).
Perhaps the only thing I’ve done in terms of changing my style is that I’m not commenting on the very big issues around AOL. Why? Frankly I have nothing to do with it. My job (at least right now) is to make WIN grow. Am I involved in larger issues at AOL, of course, but my mission is to take WIN to the next level. That’s it (for now).
The only thing that will happen if I start blogging about the meta issues is that some MSM person (or blogger) will misquote me or read into my comments. There’s no upside to me giving my opinion on the meta issues anyway, since I’m not involved in them and have very little insights. Now, that’s not to say if you come up to me at a party and say “what would you like to see happen?” I might say give you my opinion and say “don’t blog it…. but I really hope we do something with Company A, because company A would bring X, Y and Z to the table.”
Jon Miller, Ted Leonsis, and Jim Bankoff know me really, really well. I’ve known Ted for 10 years–he gave the keynote at the first Silicon Alley Reporter conference! AOL fees like home to me and I’m really jazzed up about making an impact here. It’s not often you get to come into a huge company like this and be asked to help set the vision. I mean, think about: we’re shifting AOL from a company that is primarily subscription driven to primarily advertising driven. My whole career has been creating ad-driven Internet products.
I have no idea what the future holds, but right now it feels really bright.