What’s striking about the news that CBS has acquired the video blog Wallstrip (congratulations, Howard) is not that a content startup can get successfully acquired, but rather that CBS had to buy it rather than build it. Here’s how Fred Wilson describes the startup process that Howard Lindzon pursued for Wallstrip:
He got on a plane, came to NYC, hired a couple of awesome video producers named Adam and Jeff (aka Bright Red Pictures), they hired a wonderful host named Lindsay, and Howard also roped me and a bunch of other bloggers into helping him fund the show. He set out to make a funny short video about Wall Street five days a week for less than $1000 per show. Adam and Jeff figured out how to do that and they’ve been online every work day since October 16th of last year.
Along the way Howard, Adam, Jeff, Lindsay, and a few other brave souls they hired figured out a bunch of stuff that is key to a successful web video show. Like how to get the show on every video service quickly and easily. How to tag and promote the show on each and every service so it actually gets seen. How to measure and track all the views. How to reconcile all the different measurements you get. How to get subscribers in iTunes, FeedBurner, and YouTube. How to make a web site that communicates what the show is quickly and easily. How to do advertising in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the viewer. How to get the show indexed by ticker in the major finance portals. And most of all, how to keep it short, fun, and funny.
The question this raises for me is — why can’t big media companies innovate like this? It’s not a matter of putting huge amounts of capital at risk, which is traditionally the province of venture-backed startups. This is extremely low cost! And it’s not that big media companies aren’t trying to innovate, i.e. this isn’t the over-played “old media doesn’t get it” argument. And I’m not suggesting that a big media company has to succeed at launching the next MySpace or YouTube in order to succeed at being innovative (many are in fact trying). But original content is supposed to be what companies like CBS do best.
It will be very telling to see where the next successful content play like Wallstrip originates from.