AD:Andrew: This interview is sponsored by Haystack, that is where you are going to find the right webdesigner for your next project. Check them out, haystack.com.Hey its Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and I got with me a guy who started out working at Fodors and National Enquirer and then went onto Fox and then got fired and will talk a little about that and ended up, is this true by the way Steven you ended up at McDonalds.
Interviewee: Yes I did end up at McDonalds for about six weeks.
Andrew: Working six weeks?
Interviewee: Yeah it was pretty tough. It was actually the hardest job. It was the job I was the most incompetent at, to tell you the truth, and the lowest paid.
Andrew: Alright we will get into that. And then you resurrected, got back into television, we will be talking about how you worked with Barry Diller, how you helped create ‘Monk’ the TV show, is that right.
Interviewee: Sure, yeah.
Andrew: And today you are the co-founder and CEO of wonderhowto.com. a site that has 7 to 8 million unique viewers a month. Those are incredible freaking numbers.
Interviewee: Thank you very much.
Andrew: Can you tell people before we go back in history, can you tell them what wonderhowto.com is?
Interviewee: Yeah sure, wonderhowto.com, our promise is that we find every great how to video on the internet and we curate it, namely I think one of my frustrations in life is that when you go on to Youtube or any of these other sites you often end up with a fail, with something that you didn’t want to look for, whether it is irrelevant or somebody saying hi mom when it is labeled something else. So we kind of consider ourselves like the Library of Congress in the world of how to and right now we have done a pretty good job with video and I think our next goal is to really curate text in the great world of the web.
Andrew: Oh really.
Andrew: Alright, we are going to into how you are going to do that. But before we even go back into your history, I have to got you ask this question. As a guy who has worked on WWF, helped launch playboy tv in South America, worked on Monk, ABC, CBS, NBC, Universal and so many others you produced TV shows with, is this a come down to do an interview with me by a videos guy where I have to ask you to work your camera.
Interviewee: Well actually you stated all that are true, the ones that in the resume actually at least for me resonate the most was I created America’s Most Wanted 22 years ago and then the following year although I didn’t create it, I put  company and said I have got this incredible idea so we try that, and so that was a lot of fun, but to answer your question whether it is a come down to be speaking to you, no I actually think it is kind of cool because it is the first time I have ever used Skype video, so I feel that I am actually learning something as I go along which is kind of a nice thing because you know the trick in life is to keep learning something, so if you stop learning then you kind of die at that stage.
Andrew: Yeah, we actually had you to bring the camera in from home into work so that you can get on and try this. This is all experimental we are doing here.
Interviewee: I feel like I am being reborn now that I am on Skype, so thank you very much, Andrew.
Andrew: And people who are watching this live are saying that they don’t hear the audio so I am going to fix that and get them, now they should have the audio better. And the second important question is, can you with your background in television get me on TV because I hear Opera stepping down and I am sure there is going to be an opening for a guy like me?
Interviewee: Yeah well, I think there are a couple of things you could do, Andrew. You could do a story and hide inside of a UFO but actually not be in that UFO, you could be like that guy, or you could try to sneak into the White House, I think there are many different paths to get on TV these days. It is not that special. In fact there are so many TV channels that it is very similar to the internet where it is like,  there used to be three channels, now it is almost infinite or at least there is 200, 300, on cable and TV.
Andrew: Alright, what I am hearing you say is Andrew it is not worth your time, which makes some sense to me and instead then I should focus my energy on bringing out the best interview out of you today and make my time more and more valuable. So let us go back to where you started.
Andrew: You worked at Fodors as a writer?
Interviewee: Well, actually I did do that, I did that as a freelance thing, I wrote a tour book on Turkey and Greece but the real story for why I did that was really that I had graduated from Harvard Business School and I had for some reason decided that I wanted to be in the media business and I also had been on the East Coast which is almost impossible to be in the media business from, so I said in sat my Chelsea apartment in New York and refused to find a job, and of course no one would give me a job, and there was no media company interested in 1981 and so I said well I will just go write a tour book with a friend and bum around Turkey and Greece, so that is what I did.
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Interviewee: well I’ll just go write a tour book with a friend and bum around Turkey and Greece. So, that’s what I did. But the, but preceding that, my, my job before that, I was, had been a reporter for the National Enquirer from 1977 to 1979. So, I had actually worked a little bit before I’d done the Fodor’s tour book.
Andrew: I see. Here’s, here’s what I’m not understanding yet about you as a person.
Andrew: So many people who I, who I see here are so driven to do just one thing. But you’re more interesting than that. You’ve got.
Andrew: You’re, you’re, apparently there’s stories about shovelling manure in France that I didn’t exactly understand that I read about online.
Interviewee: Wow, where did you find that? That’s amazing.
Andrew: I was doing my research.
Andrew: What does that mean by the way? Why were you shoveling?
Interviewee: Well, I’m, I’m pretty impressed by the amount of research you’ve dug up. I can’t, I’m, I have never seen this stuff before. But it’s all true actually. So, yes I have shovelled manure in France.
Andrew: Why? What is the story behind there?
Interviewee: Well, I had to, I just graduated from prep school, actually, and so I just felt like, you know it was before going to college and I just said I want to something where I don’t have to think about anything cause I know I’m gonna be thinking for another four years. So, it seemed pretty mindless and beautiful to go work on a farm in France. Except that it wasn’t actually as nice as it sounds because it was a veal farm. So we were raising veal and everybody was in these tight little warehouses packed full of baby veal who had never seen the light of day. Force feeding them milk and stuff. So, it sounded kind of nice but in truth, like a lot of things, it wasn’t that nice. It was good experience but not that nice.
Andrew: Alright, so that, that even adds more to my curiosity about you. Like I was saying, a lot of the people who I interview here are internet entrepreneurs today, but for as long as they could remember they were entrepreneurs. And, maybe they, maybe they had the internet growing up and they couldn’t wait to build a business on it. Maybe they didn’t and as soon as it came they [snaps fingers] said this is exactly what I was brought, put on this earth to do. But with you it’s more of a… The camera came back on so I hope you can see me too.
Interviewee: Okay, sure.
Andrew: With you its a little more interesting. What was the motivation of the beginning of this, this story? What were you trying to do?
Interviewee: Well, I don’t know. I guess for me the, you know, the, the whole journey is to keep learning something. And, you know, I started at the National, I, actually I started with Greek and Latin at, in college. And I went, then I went to work at the National Enquirer and I kind of broke the story of O.J. Simpson going out with this young Newport hottie who became Nicole and who’s no longer on this earth. But, then I chased Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett then I got an MBA and then I, you know, did a Greece and Turkey tour book. And I, I guess for me the, the challenge is always to find something, I mean I guess if I, if everything could be interesting as college or grade school where you’re constantly learning then that’s a really good life to me. So, I, I guess it’s a issue of, you know, where are the areas where I can learn the most. Where are the areas where I can do something and, frankly, where are the areas that I’ve done too much and I’m not that interested in and I’m probably not gonna be that good at anymore. So, I guess for me, after twenty some years of television I just had said to myself, “I just really can’t contribute that many more things to television. Let it, let it be the world of some young Turks who really are driven to make a dunb reality show of something.” I mean I’m being cynical, but, you know there’s a, at a certain point you just have to move on in life.
Andrew: So the common thread is learning. You keep looking for places where you can learn, where you can feel that you have to stretch.
Interviewee: Sure, I mean at, at that stage, you know, when you, when you stop learning, I mean, I happen to have kids and one’s in college and the other one’s in high school but I see the speed at which their brain keeps learning new information. And I’m kind of envious of that because I do see, or I certainly witnessed over the years that people, as they get older. I don’t know they get satisfied with what they know or they stop learning at the same velocity that they had learned at before or they get complaisant or they get cynical or they think that they know a lot things. And I just go, that’s not too much fun, I really, you know, I’d rather be Peter Pan or I’d rather just keep learning and learning and learning. And if that, if I’m able to have a life like that then that’s a good life. So that’s kind of how I view it.
Andrew: Okay. You mentioned that you grew a little cynical when it came to, to television and Hollywood, what you like when you started out? What was it that drew you to it?
Interviewee: Well, I had this incredible burning ambition when I, I guess it, there’s actually a bit of a story to that. Namely, you know, it goes back to, I was sitting in my bathtub in Chelsea unable to get a job. I’d had my Harvard MBA and said, “Where’s, where is everybody? Why aren’t they hiring me?” And of course at this stage in life, I completely understand why they didn’t wanna hire me. Like, who, who, who would wanna hire me? I didn’t have any experience and that kind of thing. So, in, in 1982 I wrote a letter, having been rejected from, you know Universal and Paramount and MGM, and whoever owned movie businesses or
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Interviewee: …TV businesses. They said, you know, “Little boy, go get a job before you apply to us.” And so with no paths left to take I actually had read in the newspaper that there was this guy who owned the New York Post and a Dallas paper and the Village Voice. And I saw that he was actually interested in moving into the media business and his name was Rupert Murdoch. And he was quite successful in the newspaper business in Australia and England. He had just only recently, at that time, started moving into the United States into the print business.
So, I wrote him a letter blindly and I said, “You know, I’m kind of this MBA addict Greek and Latin major and I kind of need a job. And it was kind of a pathetic letter. But it wasn’t that pathetic but it was a personal letter and I wrote it to him. And, you know, the next day I got a phone call that said, “Come in and meet me and what kind of a job would you like to do? And I have plans to make a fourth network. So, come along for the ride and let’s see what happens.” So, it’s just a weird situation that I had the opportunity to get somewhere before an idea had to start it. And at that stage, because I’d been unemployed by my own choice, unemployed for so long, I was just burning with ambition even though you might have called me a slacker cause I was sitting in my bathtub most of the times saying, “No, I’m not going to take a job until it seems like the right moment.” And, once I joined News Corporation, Rupert moved very quickly. He bought half of Twentieth Century Fox, and then he bought all of the metromedia television stations by 1985.
And, you know, there was seven or eight years of me being not really doing what I wanted to do: going to Harvard Business School, not having the job, writing a Fodor’s book when I really wanted to do something more meaningful in the media business. And, you know, all of that ambition was just building up in my head and I just was ready to explode. So, when I finally had the opportunity, which came in 1985 to go make a television show…. It was a long study. I worked for Murdoch for a couple of years and then we came out to California and he said, “Hey, now you work for this guy, Mr. Diller.” And over a period of two years, I was eventually given a shot to make a TV show. And Mr. Diller had said, “Hey, you know what, throw me some ideas.” And so I had some ideas in my head and these things had just been building up like a volcano. And I was just extremely ambitious. And, you know, I’m not sure … You know, the first idea I had turned out to be America’s Most Wanted. But it was just …I just had a lot of pent-up ambition and an inability to express myself. And finally, when I was able to do it, I was really efficient and really focused on, you know, the mission.
Andrew: What was he like back then? Rupert Murdoch actually got your letter, read it and invited you in?
Interviewee: Um, well, he’s very much the same person he always has been. I guess that would be 28 years ago, 27 years ago. You know, he wasn’t exactly a young man 27 years ago. He was a fully shaped human being. And he’s extremely smart. He is til this day, in my opinion, the most focused media executive there is, the most common horse-sense guy with the most incredible ability to find a marketplace. He’s just really good and he’s also a handshake, standup guy. So, when he says he’s going to do something, he honors his word completely, every time. He’s really quite a remarkable executive.
Andrew: I’ve written down a few words that you used to describe him. You said “focused.” But, to us it looks like he’s in movies. He’s trying to get on the Internet with MySpace. He’s in newspapers still. What is the focus and what do you mean by focus?
Interviewee: I guess, you know, to reduce it to a sound bite, I guess he’s all about content in the English language. I mean he spans three continents. He’s actually ambitiously moving into India and China. You know, I don’t really pay that much attention to what he does these days but in the English language he cares about contact whether it’s on the newspaper or on television, on the Internet. He’s really, you know, there is nobody else who has so much content across so many English speaking continents.
Andrew: I’m still shaped now by one of the first people who I worked for. Do you feel the same way with Rupert Murdoch? Is he shaping the way that you think today about wonderhowto.com or influencing it I should say?
Interviewee: Um, gee, I don’t know. I think at this stage it’s time for me to do my own thing. Yeah, I just … hm, that’s a very good question. You know …
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Interviewee: … I mean what he does is… you know he has a history of many newspapers and television shows and television networks. So his task is pretty different from mine but you know that I think the thing that I take away from him is that he is truly honorable and a hand-shake guy and he is a man of his words so I think that’s as admirable as it gets.
Andrew: Alright, one more actually a couple more questions if you don’t mind about this time with you….
Andrew: With what you said now, you said earlier that he defines the marketplace that that’s something that admirable about him. How does he do that? Do you have an example?
Interviewee: Well, in 1981 you know he said, “Gee, there’s this weird opportunity…” you know there’s 3 networks. He came from Australia mind you so his view of the world is that of a very competitive place with a population that’s a fraction I don’t know what it is exactly but I don’t know it’s a tenth. I mean, I just don’t know… sorry I don’t know my geography stats but comes a very tiny, very competitive… equally competitive island so, the aggragate amount of advertising revenue is just a fraction of America’s and yet they’re banging away with the same number of networks and you know, the same infrastractures.
So, he comes to the United States and he makes an observation that’s very simple which is there’s 3 networks out there and they’ve been entrenched and gee is there enough room to carve it out with a fourth with a really strong programming service. That idea, cannot be a simpler idea. Very hard to execute, requires a huge amount of capital that only you know, somebody of his size can even conceivably pull off. And he just… you know, he went at it. He just said, “I’m gonna do this”. I mean, he did that at the same time he was pursuing another idea which is… he was very at that time, interested that cable had this strange kind of monopolistic control over the American audience. And he said, “You know what, I’m gonna go up and start a satellite business.”. So way before DirectTV, he was sinking in tens of millions of dollars into this thing called Sky… I can’t remember what the name was coz it’s defunct know but it preceded DirectTV and preceded his English efforts for Sky television but he called it Sky-something… or other but it was a satellite service. So, he just you know, there are very 2 big ideas that’s 1981 at the time that is way before today and he goes, “Fourth network, I think we can pull it off in America…”, “Satellite service to compete with cable…”. I mean, those are really big thoughts… really simple thoughts… concepts that you know, very few people have the bravery to pull off and he did. And he does.
Andrew: Ok, we can’t move past this without talking about what happened at the end. And I know most people know the story but for those who don’t, can you tell it?
Interview: Well, let’s see… I’ll tell the abridged version which was I was running a lot of the division to FOX at that time and I think it was 1992… I gave a provocative speech about standards and practices and in that speech, I had a for… kind of show and tell, I had a man stripped down and take of his clothes and put it on and the speech that I was giving was about the standards and practices and the morays of nakedness on the one hand versus violence versus racism and stuff as expressed in American television. So it was part of a longer, 20-minute speech but that particular speech and that particular “show and tell” event kind of alienated some people in there so I was swiftly fired.
Andrew: I read Dick Cheney was in the audience which <…>
Interviewee: He was indeed, he was indeed so is his wife Pat Cheney…
Andrew: So, fast-forwarding to today about this issue, I noticed on your site that I can learn how to flip a knife but porn very explicitly you say on the site, on wonderhowto.com… you don’t want any nudity, you don’t want any sexual content. It….
Interviewee: Go ahead.
Andrew: Can you reflect on that a little bit?
Interviewee: Well, I guess nakedness is okay. I don’t actually… we don’t say nudity is not allowed. We say anything <…> or sexually suggestive is not allowed. So I guess we used pretty much the same standard and practices that cable uses namely, you can say “shit” in South Park a hundred and sixty three times or in the case of HBO which by the way is premium cable but similiar….
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Interviewee: I guess. You know I don’t have a subscription to HBO. But I guess, in the days when I was following television closely you could have a naked person but you couldn’t have a boner insertion and that was really the kind of rules that cable lived by and those are kind of the rules that I wonder how to, we choose to live by. Namely we have a category called “sexual education” but good Lord we’re not gonna have pornography and insertion and that kind of thing in there cause it’s completely unnecessary. I mean, there’s a few thing. One is, I don’t have any particular desire to be a pornographer and the second thing is that I don’t, you know, there’s plenty of pornography sites out there and I just seek not at all to be confused with any of them. They can do their thing. They’re free to do their thing but that’s not who we are. So, it’s a pretty simple line.
Andrew: Well, what I mean is, how have your views changed now that you’re running the company?
Andrew: Have they?
Interviewee: Well, I mean, I’m not sure my views have changed that much. I think that, you know, when you are operating television as I was in 1992 and you are operating with, I think we had ten FCC licenses of owned and operated stations. Plus you had, you know, two hundred affiliates at Fox. So when you are operating and you’re under the sway of the FCC then you have to play by the rules of the FCC. If you’re in cable as I was from, you know, when I was president of USA cable and Sci-Fi cable, you’re not operating under the sway of the FCC. You are operating under the sway of your own standards and practices. The Federal Communications, they have nothing to do with you. So, you know, in that context, as I said, you know, you can say “shit” if you wanted to. At USA we never did but there’s a different set of rules and then now at the internet it’s once again a different medium. So, you know, I don’t think anybody’s particularly offended by “shit” or “fuck” but we as Americans tend to be offended or keep a line between pornography and non-pornography and so that line is still a very important line to me and that’s determined by the user and by the advertiser but not by the FCC.
Andrew: I see, okay. You mentioned when you started at FOX that burning ambition that you came in to the job with. Was it still there throughout? Or did it changed?
Interviewee: [laughs] I think I was a little wilder then. In other words, you know, I’ll give you an example. When I came up with the idea for “America’s Most Wanted” the name of it was you know, very simply called “Electronic Lynching” and that frankly is slightly childish or sophomoric view of what certainly what it became. And I just, you know in those days when I was a programming executive, when I was a young programming executive I thought it would be really fun to you know, hang ’em high and to lynch them and to electrocute them and to do all those kinds of network kind of like things and at this stage, I doubt I would call something “Electronic Lynching”, you know, for six months on the development reports. So I don’t know. Hopefully my ambition’s the same I just have a little bit more wisdom than I did before.
Andrew: Why were you trying to do that? Were you trying to call it “Electronic Lynching” because that psyched you up? Were you trying to do it because you said, anything to get attention? Were you, what was the goal? What was the motivation there?
Interviewee: Well, I mean I guess the starting point, or hopefully the starting point, was that I had a germ of an idea that was really good, you know, enduring. Which was, you can go to the post office at that time and you can see the FBI Ten Most Wanted List. And my idea was very simple which is I put those ten most wanted list on television. And could I improve the, you know, the, the RBI, the, the batting average of the FBI. If I could flash all those faces on television so the concept was really, you know, “watch TV, catch a criminal.” And it was a very unknown idea, unknown hypothesis at the time that we could catch people and, you know, the first person I ask was Joseph Lambaugh, the writer. I said, “Would you be the host of it?” And he said, “You have no chance of catching people in this particular country. It’s too big. We have three timezones it will never work.” And I kind of believe him, to tell you the truth, because in my own ignorance I said, “Gee that is a problem here.” So it turns out within the first four days we caught a guy who would had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for ten years and they had never caught him and we caught him in four days. And so consistently that show has caught one person every single week who had been, you know, not on the, who had never been caught by authorities. So I think fundamentally it was a good idea, you know, and I think there were a couple of things working in my favor which was, I kinda knew how to do, well, I didn’t know how to do things cheaply. I didn’t know how to do things expensively was really what it amounted to.
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Interviewee: So I was able to make a pilot for a ridiculous fraction of what it cost to make a pilot in those days. So my pilot cost $40,000; I think the closest pilot in prime time television was about $400,000. I just didn’t know any better. So ignorance was on my side. I was ambitious. I had a good idea. So I don’t know…I think fundamentally you just have to get back to the good idea and also at the time there wasn’t a plethora of what’s now called “reality television”. So what you were programming against was really something like Hill Street Blues. So when you’re…when all these FBI and DEA agents are chasing somebody, you know, we could talk to these real people at the time. The closest thing anybody had seen was Hill Street Blues which was supposed to be very real at the time. You know, it was a joke. So at the time it was a good counter-programming move. It was a good idea. There are a lot of things that went in its favor. And, you know, it would still… it wouldn’t work today. But it shouldn’t have to work today. It’s a 20-year old idea.
Andrew: And it did endure. How long was it on the air?
Interviewee: Well it’s still on the air 22 years later and so is Cops actually. So the two shows I put on the air in 1988 and 1989 are actually still there which is a little bit surprising to me but there it is.
Andrew: Wow. I didn’t realize it because I gave up my TV years ago but it outlasted my TV.
Interviewee: It’s a very interesting statement when you ask, “Gee. How long were those shows on the air?” Because in fact, they’re on so long and now with the fragmentation of television, there are so many channels, it’s pretty easy not to know if a show’s on television. And that wasn’t true 20 years ago. And it’s part of a larger process: why the internet interests me which is there’s such enormous fragmentation on television and there’s, of course, huge fragmentation by definition on the internet. But television is not what it was. It’s just a kind of very fragmented version of what it was.
Andrew: So is what you’re trying to do with Wonder How To is that a way of bringing television, segmented television, to the internet? Or is it just a how-to site?
Interviewee: No, I’m pretty fascinated by video consumption. I don’t make a distinction necessarily between television and internet. I’m really more fascinating on if something’s really good. But I mean in the old days when I was a programming executive I would spend my whole time looking at three quarter inch tapes and exchanging them with my friends and saying, “Wow. This is a really interesting piece of tape.” And then when YouTube and the internet kind of exploded I found that I was able to do that completely on my own without shipping three quarter inch tapes by messenger around town. And that really became fascinating to me which is you have access to different kinds of content on the internet and it’s far greater, it’s less produced, less expensive. But hopefully the germs of the idea are every bit as interesting as what I used to be seeking in the old days before the internet.
Andrew: And by the way, I’m seeing that we’re getting a lot of questions as we talk and a lot of support from people. Will Lamb, I will be asking your question in a little bit. He wants to know about the founding of Wonder How To. Scott Simko and Monocat, thank you for telling people to come watch us live. All right. McDonalds. After you get fired from Fox you go and you work at McDonalds. Is that just for fun? For kicks? To say so that when you succeed later on even bigger you can say, “I went from McDonalds to this kind of greatness”? Because I always had that fantasy.
Interviewee: Well, it kind of…it went the other way. I was running many divisions at Fox at the time and I went to McDonalds after that. There’s a little bit of context to that which is I had been running a lot of these divisions at Fox. I’d been quite successful. My shows were working quite well. And then of course I got fired. And the context was that I had refused to sign a contract for many years when I was working at Fox and Mr. Murdoch had solidified…had put me in charge of these divisions he said, “Do me a favor and sign a contract.” And I very reluctantly signed a contract because for me I really work for the fun of it and so the idea that I have to work for the next two or three years was a concept that was kind of alien to me. I didn’t really care about necessarily the money or anything like that. I cared about the freedom to pursue ideas that I was fascinated by. In fact, when he said, “Would you sign a contract?” I said, “Okay. You’ve always been a gentleman to me so I will sign a contract.” So I signed a three or four year contract at the time and it was more money than I had seen in my lifetime and…
Andrew: How much?
Interviewee: A lot.
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Stephen: in my lifetime and
Andrew: How much?
Interviewee: A lot
Andrew: It’s a long time. Can you give us a sense?
Interviewee: A lot. It was as much as anybody was making in television in those days.
Interviewee: And, uh, so you know, I very reluctantly signed it and then within three months I was fired. And a gentleman that he is, which kind of shocked me he said, “Well I guess we have to pay off your contract now.” And I said, “ahhh. Oh my god I’ve never been fired. And do I really deserve this?” And he really is pretty adult about and I was just kind of in shock. I wasn’t in shock that I was fired, I was in shock that I would be paid a large portion of my contract for all these months that I hadn’t actually worked there. This was a new concept to me. When actually I received the check I was so personally, my balance, it was like I lost my sense of balance for some reason. I said, “This is so much money. It’s weird. It’s really weird because I didn’t work.” So I just said, “I gotta do something simple like be a bike-messenger, like what I used to in high school.” You know then I settled on working at McDonalds. I actually at the time had a big fascination with the Big Mac. I ate an enormous amount of Big Macs in those days. I don’t know. It all just seemed to make sense to me. So I did all that for quite a few weeks. I just wanted to. I had been working non-stop, you know running all these television stations all these programs and I just. I hadn’t stopped since 19; I hadn’t stopped in 11 years. So I just said whew, I’m going to stop now. I just went to work at McDonalds.
Andrew: Why work at all? Why not go seat on a beach somewhere or take up a hobby like mountain climbing or cycling or something? What was it specifically about that?
Interviewee: Yeah. I just, I don’t know the answer to that. I just, I did pick up surfing. That one I really did pick up. As far as McDonalds. I was kind of disoriented. And I kind of lost personal touch with what a dollar is and what it takes to earn a dollar, because I had fallen into Hollywood. None of it made too much sense to me.
Andrew: Were you spending money like a mad man in Hollywood? Is that a problem?
Interviewee: No. I’ve always been pretty frugal to tell you the truth. I probably have the first dime I ever earned. So, no. I never spent a lot of money, to tell you the truth. No.
Andrew: Okay. So it was just a way of grounding yourself.
Interviewee: Yeah. I think that’s accurate.
Andrew: Okay so six months later you go and you form your own production company and that’s when you produced for ABC, CBS. I went though the list.
Interviewee: Yeah. I made, I mean there’s one show that I really enjoyed making over time that I recall which was I made David Blaine Street Magic. Which was the first time David Blaine had been on television and that was an enormous amount of fun for me. Just because he’s such a clown. You know, we spent six months just filming all over the place and he, you know. When he did magic for me at the time I had never done any magic TV show so he loved performing magic for me because I would just lose my mind. I mean I, actually the worst thing you can ever do is find out how magic is done because you know, it’s kind of like taking away Santa Claus from a kid. It’s just so much fun to be surprised but then to find out how it’s done, it’s like, “oh it’s that dumb, really? I fell for that stupid thing.” But it was great fun making it. Because it was just endless amounts of tricks everyday and I just loved it.
Andrew: That put him on the map, didn’t it?
Interviewee: Yeah. I think he would have made it on the map otherwise. But yeah, it was a really good show and actually one of my favorite shows ever. Still to this day.
Andrew: By the way, Ben [Fremers] who’s watching live says, “Andrew Warner on Mixergy gets really great interviewees. Often insightful people I’d never think of.” That second part is true. I would never have thought of you as being in the internet space. You never go to the conferences. We don’t see you in the tech blogs a lot. Is that intentional? Or is it just that you’ve got a whole other community?
Interviewee: No. I, I mean I, um, I guess that‘s a good question. I’m pretty focused on WonderHowTo and making it grow and not, you know if I was I mean it seems, we’re venture-capital backed. I mean General Catalyst is backing us. I don’t think it’s a good use of money generally for me to fly somewhere and attend a conference. I mean, I’ll do it on occasion, it there’s a motivation for it. No. I don’t think it’s necessary for growing WonderHowTo I think I know what things are necessary for growing WonderHowTo. Socializing is perfectly fine. I’ve got nothing against it. But by the way, you know I’m in Los Angeles it’s not the social center of the internet. I would say San Francisco is.
Andrew: It’s not, but it’s very, I was in Los Angeles. There’s a very big tech community in Los Angeles.
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Andrew: There’s a very big tech community in Los Angeles of people who are doing interesting things.
Interviewee: There is.
Andrew: And who have your kind of business sense when it comes to the internet. You want to build a real business.
Interviewee: Andrew, aren’t you in Los Angeles now? Or where are you?
Andrew: No, now I’m in Buenos Aires. I got married about four weeks ago and Olivia and I decided to come out here for a few months after the wedding.
Interviewee: You’re in Buenos Aires.
Andrew: I’m in Buenos Aires now, yeah. This is a great connection they set me up with here. Nobody even knows I’m down here. That’s awesome.
Interviewee: Well, I’m kind of surprised, myself. You know, Los Angeles is a very, it’s got a lot of talented people. It’s very disorganized in that kind of traditional internet, or DC, organization kind of way, but there’s a lot of excentric different kind of people on the internet in Los Angeles. I think that is true.
Andrew: Let’s focus on profits. On horse sense, on profit.
Interviewee: Oh, is that true, do you think?
Andrew: Oh, in Los Angeles? Absolutely.
Interviewee: Really? OK. That’s interesting.
Andrew: Yeah, and you know what? I was going to introduce you to Neil Patel after this interview. I don’t think he’s down there anymore, now he’s in Seattle. Have you heard of him yet?
Interviewee: No. What does he do?
Andrew: He’ll blow your mind with traffic getting techniques that he’s now using on some big sites.
Interviewee: Sure, always useful to know that kind of thing.
Andrew: Good clever things that help increase traffic but won’t necessarily get you into tech crunch every day. That won’t get people to say, “Wow, this is the coolest technology,” but will get you to profitability.
Interviewee: So actually, do you have cable in Buenos Aires? Are you on the cable system there?
Andrew: They do. They do. And even though it’s mostly in Spanish, the TV friggin’ sucks me in. I’m powerless against your evil medium. It’s not yours anymore. Why do you ask?
Interviewee: Well, because we put up a number of channels in Latin America, some of which are on cable and satellite still. And I don’t know the plate, I’ve lost touch, but it’s just interesting to me as a side note that in Argentina, which is of course a Catholic country, we’d work on buying this group of content, this group of network in Argentina based, Buenos Aires based. And, you know, it had these nice channels like infinito, and hupiter and stuff like that. But the one that was driving all the subscription; pounding pornography. I mean, that was just like, and we looked at it and we’re like, “You’re gotta be kidding us.” And they go, “No, no, no, if you take that away, then all the subscriptions to this MSO are just going to disappear.” And it was pounding San Fernando porn and we were like, “Oh my God, you’ve gone all the way to Buenos Aires and that’s what’s driving subscription?” It was kind of demoralizing, to tell you the truth. So I was going to ask you, is venus still on the cable system?
Andrew: No, but I’m writing a note, I’ll check it out when I can. I’ve got to say, for a Catholic country, there is more nudity on television than there is in the US. They’re much more open… I shouldn’t say open-minded, close-minded; I should just say more open. More nudity.
Interviewee: Well, America has a long, and this is related to a prior issue, but America has a long Puritanical issue with nudity that just is its own category. It’s different from every other country. It’s just the way it is.
Andrew: It’s true. I just don’t want to make a value judgment over it, because I want to just stay curious and once I make a value judgment I close off my curiosity. Instead, I want to say, “Is that what drives business people?” Is it that we’re so freakin’ hungry for sex that we can’t watch it on TV, we can’t get it anywhere. We need to take all this energy and channel it somewhere so instead we’re creating America’s most wanted TV show on Cops and all kinds of websites. Who knows? That’s where I want my mind to go. That deep curiousity.
Andrew: Oh wait, so that takes me to this. What’s the goal? Wouldn’t you originally think, wonder how two would be? What was the thesis behind the business?
Interviewee: It was kind of a less of a thesis than, you know, it didn’t have a grand design. It was like saying, “There’s a fourth network, let’s do that,” which is Rupert’s idea. This is really coming from a place where I happen to love video. Again, 20 years ago I spent my whole time grabbing three quarter inch cassettes and just exchanging wild strange things that had been captured on video. Wild, strange things that are completely mundane by today’s standards. And I guess, you know, some of it was shaped by what didn’t work for me. For example, I didn’t think humor was particular funny on the internet, and I didn’t think viral videos were all that interesting to me after a certain period of time. I guess I’d also look to a couple other things that I thought were kind of enduring, in a strange way. Namely, I respected Tony Robbins or I respected.
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Interviewee: I respected Jane Fonda for her workout cassettes, and I thought those were kind of interesting, and I thought: You know, I would like to find that kind of information on the internet. I don’t really like the medium of spending twenty-nine dollars to learn something and getting a video cassette, and I do like the idea that on the internet I can get anything, anytime. And so, there were very few places or categories where I was able to get my own personal satisfaction. For example, I wasn’t that interested in the short films that came out on the internet. I wasn’t that interested in the dramas. I wasn’t interested in the cat falling out of a tree, but what I was interested in were these strange tutorials. At the time I envisioned that…We have a focus now on the internet of like three or five, under ten minutes to tell a story, and coming from television, I’m like “Please God, somebody free me from the thirty minute, sixty minute tyranny that is television.” So, I actually thought that the internet would tell a story to the length that God made that story, the video Gods, so to speak, made that or wanted that story to be told. Why everything is under five minutes, I really don’t know. I personally think there should be How-To’s that are a hundred minutes long or one minute, but not everything has to be three minutes. It’s just a convention that we’re going through that I think will change over time. But, the point is I had been fascinated by this realm. Then when I saw, much to my surprise, the breadth of curiosity in weird, interesting things, being taught out there, I thought “Wow, this is interesting.” So, for example, one of my favorites to this day is ‘How to teach a cat how to poop in a toilet and not use kitty litter’, and I’m like “That is just fantastic.” I for sure am not going to spend twenty-nine dollars to pay for somebody to send me a cassette on how to teach a Siamese cat how to poop, on the other hand, how frigging amazing is it? Because
I’ve never heard of this in my life and I didn’t have any idea that cats could poop in a toilet. So, I found that really interesting. Then I dug deeper and we had researchers on it for about six months before we started any of the coding. And, you know, we would find things on there that would blow my mind. For example, there’s a sixty minute, perfectly executed filmed video on how to grow psilocybin mushrooms. And I was just shocked, and that was on Google video of all things, and I was shocked and I had a couple of conclusions. One is what a remarkable piece of information. It’s illegal, or it’s very close to illegal and I wouldn’t want to store or host something like that and I wouldn’t want to produce something like that. But how amazing this world is that somebody could go on the internet and find an aptly exquisite set of instructions on how to grow psilocybin mushrooms or how to teach your cat how to poop. So, I thought that was just learning in a kind of accessible, wonderful way. I mean it’s not like medicine learning. Medicine learning is you know math, algebra, trigonometry, you know, linear programming. I thought this was really kind of fascinating, and it kind of dovetails with DIY, and it turns out, and I didn’t know this at the time, but How-To queries represent three percent of every Google search query. So, it’s the biggest bucket of queries, biggest buck, conceptual bucket inside of any Google or any search query. And that’s kind of, you know I guess I was just following my own curiosity, but as it turns out, not surprisingly, other people kind of chased down the same kind of things, as it turns out.
Andrew: But you’re chasing it, or you chased it differently. You weren’t going to do what demand media does, which is hire people on the cheap to pump out these How-To videos quickly. You weren’t doing what some other sites do, which is to design high quality video. Your angle is to bring what’s out there onto your website, to tag it up, as I understand it, based on some of the back and forth e-mails that I had to do some research on this interview. To tag it up properly so that it shows up intelligently in search engines and bubbles up, and to maybe start a conversation around it so that there’s more content on the site. That was…
Interviewee: That’s pretty accurate. That’s a pretty accurate business synopsis. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty impressed. Yeah, I think we looked at a few things at the beginning. One was, originally because of my conceit of coming from Hollywood, I said well you know we’ll produce and my partner, co-founder, Mike said yeah, yeah we’ll produce. And then so, we looked at the cost of that, and it’s like okay, well we can do things for cheap. Five hundred dollars, three hundred dollars, is the cost of making something for a five minute whatever, the editing and the humans and all that stuff. And we go wow, you know. Even at a one dollar….
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Interviewee:…that’s a lot, so that seemed…and then the other problem with making it, was that it was unscaleable, namely you know, think of all the how to’s you can possibly imagine – how to teach your cat how to poop in a toilet, you know that’s a long tail kind of how to but it’s totally valid, and I think I’d have to get through a million other headlines of production before I got to how teach a cat how to poop in a toilet. So if i produced a million of them at $500 thats half a billilon dollars that’s a ridiculous amount of money I’d have to spend. So you know one is the production costs was how would you ever recover your money from that kind of thing, second how would you scale? How could you possibly produce a million pieces of content in the course of your lifetime, it’s just too hard and then the 3rd was you know, our imagination of one editorial place was kind of limited compared to the imagination of the web and the 4th was we looked at the cost of hosting and streaming because at the time that we started it, everybody was hosting and streaming and there was you know, veoh and meta cafe and youtube and grouper and all of these things and as it turns out, the cost of hosting and streaming was by itself, separate from the production cost. it’s so expensive that i said i’ll shoot myself in the head before i take on this business model because i had been talking to the guy who started veoh and i said your player’s quite nice, how much does it cost you to host and stream that stuff and he goes “about $3.33 per thousand streams” im like 3.33 per thousand streams? and he goes “yeah yeah yeah and it’s coming down a little bit” and i said wow that is so expensive i can’t even get that kind of revenue coming in and how am i gonna pay for the production costs. so when you put all that together, and then you add into the fact that i think there is a value to specialized search mainly i think google is getting very crowded and i think it’s…i dont really persona
lly enjoy sorting through the false results of google and it’s not their fault it’s the fact thast the number of webpages is so ridiculously overwhelming and there are so many authorities who now say black is yellow and yellow is black and you’re going ‘oh wait a minute, can’t somebody just give me an article that says black is black?” well, it’s hard these days for whatever reason and i think it’s theres a lot of noise in the google results. and so the idea of a specialized search engine to me made a lot of sense because i don’t like..you know we connect to over 10, 500 different sources and websites out there, we don’t just connect to YouTube so it’s a very big web out there….
Andrew: How do you get all that content into your site? Is it all machines going out there and pulling in “How To” videos?
Interviewee: No, you see the problem with machines going out there and pulling it is you would spend a crushingly huge amount of human time weeding out the bad results. So we do have machines, they’re are certainly some websites that seem to be more how to than others and its really alot of community submitting things and our people our curators in here going out and searching down topics so we just by default said theres an unprofitable way for us to chase this idea, or there’s a profitable way for it…
Andrew: Did you say that before or after you launched?
Interviewee: You know we spent personal money for two years before we launched so we had done and awful lot of research so I was completely willing to throw away that money and say that was a nice test.
Andrew: Where did that money go?
Interviewee: That money went into hiring 2 or 3 researchers to track down every possible concept, it’s like you know ther was a month where I’d say ok I really know magic i know basic magic pretty well having made it, let’s find all the magic tricks that are out there and let’s see if they’re good and let’s look at all the, doing the research let’s see what we can buy out there for $29 and let’s see what’s free out there…
Andrew: Oh you mean videos, what videos can you go and buy and accumulate on a website.
Interviewee: Well that was part of the research, is what can we buy and how much is on the web and how much is on Metacafe, you know how much is on Magic.com or whatever it was. So the first two years was “Is there a market out there and let’s shape it into a business model that’s not going to make us go broke.” So before we spent a dime on programming, we spent 6 months to a year of just having research done and then we said “OK, let’s hire programmers now and start writing the code for this website.”
Andrew: And when they started coding it, did you know that you weren’t going to develop your own content, that you were just going to bring content in and did you know what the site would look like beyond that or were you still thinking, “are there other ideas?” were you still going down other avenues?
Interviewee: We knew that we weren’t going to host and stream, we knew that we weren’t going to produce, we knew that the internet was so fertile in terms of the, you know, the hundreds of thousands of sites out there was far more than what one editorial staff could possibly hold sway over. Now I do think demand media is very clever, I do think that you know…
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Interviewee: that part of, I mean I think what they do is very good, what I think that where we’re going to have a certain advantage is when you get to the long tail, and there are experts in, you know, glass blowing, with, you know, fifteen percent sand or whatever the how-to might be. You know, what’s out there already is probably pretty, chances are it’s pretty passionate and pretty exquisite, and I think that the model of paying people to make how-to’s will break down eventually. Because, you know, I, I think there’s a, a disconnect between people who are doing something in order to get paid versus people who are really good who are doing something for free and there is some point where you’re going, “Hey wait a minute this is just a mercenary trying to get a few bucks.” And I, I think that will cause trouble eventually. And that just, you know, it just means there’s more noise out there and it just means there’s more place for a curated website that has specialized results. I mean, what it comes down to is it’s kind of like, we’re a specialized search engine in the same way Expedia or Shopzilla or Amazon is kind of specialized search engine.
Andrew: Okay, you, you mentioned that three percent of Google’s searches have to do with how-to.
Andrew: Is that where you get your traffic? From the three percent that searching online?
Interviewee: Well, I think if you look at all of the people in our space, the vast majority, over fifty percent of our traffic comes from SEO. People type in, you know, whether, doesn’t matter who you’re talk, about.com, I mean if you look at About’s front page, it’s not strictly a how-to site. It’s an information site. But if you look at about.com, and look at it over the period of ten years that it’s been in existence. There was a period where they really thought that they were a destination site. And you’d look at the frontpage and it would have interesting this, interesting that, kind of in a layout that was vaguely newspaper-like. And if you look at it today, there’s a big honking search bar there, that’s all there is. They don’t really care. So it, it’s, it really shows you that, first of all that nobody goes to the about.com frontpage and if you were at the about.com frontpage, forget it, it’s not newspaper. Just go search something. The way people get into About, or eighty to ninety percent of them, is they type something into Google and then there’s a, a thing on cholesterol and About ranks high in organic search and there it is. So, if you look at all the sites that are vaguely in our space, whether it’s About, EHow, WikiHows, Squidoo, Associated Content, the vast majority of traffic comes in from SEO.
Andrew: Okay. SEO is something that, it’s very competitive and it’s not something that’s obvious. I remember the founder of Mahalo, Jason Calacanis, who is also in you neighborhood.
Andrew: For a long time fought against search engine optimization, was gonna be about the purity of the content that he was going to deliver, and then I think he saw that search engine optimization was what was gonna give him the most traffic. And then he had to figure it out. To you, was it obvious that it was going to be search engine optimization?
Interviewee: You know, I, I mean to this day I’m, look, I, I think out growth has certainly come, like Mahalo, which is in the same category, or a similar category, they overlap us certainly. I think that, I never expected search engine optimization to be the, the, the fundamental aspect, the source of our growth. And as it turns out, it, it has been really generous to us. And I still, being slightly old media, I like the idea that WonderHowTo has their frontpage, a sensibility that it stands for something. Even if we don’t produce content. I mean, personally, I’m so having made content for twenty five years, I so past the notion that I have to make content in order to create a brand or something. It’s like, nah, I don’t think so.
Andrew: How do you learn search engine optimization? Who brought it to you and said, “Hey, look at this. This is gonna be fifty percent of our traffic.”?
Interviewee: Nah, it really didn’t work that way. It really.
Andrew: Oh, how did it work?
Interviewee: Well it really worked with, I, I mean I think if you start with the best idea that you have, you’ll eventually get wherever you have to go. Namely, we were really most focused on finding the very best how-to’s on the idea that there was a lot of noise out there in the search results and that we would find. We would be this place that would just have the best results. And that you didn’t have to go anywhere farther and didn’t have to wrestle with Google. Once that happened we found the best results then everything else followed. Namely, you know, articles would get written about us and then, you know, we’d have decent page rank and it would accumulate over time. And people would link it ad they’d talk about us. And all those things are similar ways to say SEO, but SEO just replicates. SEO is really just deconstructing Google and try to replicate what the best user does and how, you know, the best sites prosper. And so, if you start with trying to be the best site all the SEO stuff will follow, actually. I mean you do have to know what some of the rules are, but generally speaking, if you’re focused on bringing the best content and the best navigation and the best everything else. It, it all comes to you
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Interviewee: …you don’t really have to take a class in SEO.
Andrew: Okay. Filters. You mention that a lot. How do you filter? How do you take all the noise out there that’s in the how-to world and decide these are the videos that are worth showing on my site?
Interviewee: Well, it’s surprisingly easy to look at a video and say it’s a good video and it’s a bad video. I mean, the first issue is the intent really good of the video? And if it is then it’s probably going to be a good how-to video. But in terms of filters I think…I mean the internet, not unlike television, has, you know, there’s you yourself, there’s the advertiser and there’s the user. And so you as the publisher have to kind of have this conversation with these other two people, namely the advertiser and the user. I think if you just use mechanical filters to filter out how-to’s you’ll still end up with a lot of junk in there that will on the one hand, make the user unhappy and two, make the advertiser very unhappy. And the advertiser doesn’t have a lot of patience and they’ll stop giving you money if you don’t play by advertiser rules, so to speak.
Andrew: Couldn’t you take it all into the system anyway; most traffic is coming to you from Google right? So they’re not making value judgments, they’re just getting their ads – not value judgments about your site, they’re making value judgments about Google. And then the videos that people view the most would be the ones that you bubble up to the top to your viewers instead of curating it on the way in. Why do you have to filter?
Interviewee: Well, it’s just a practical survival thing. The advertiser really doesn’t want to advertise on a site where they don’t screen the videos. So it’s a very practical matter of survival and as a philosophical issue of curation. We actually want to see every single video that’s on the goddamned site and we don’t want to have any video on there that hasn’t been screened by a human so that we can go to the advertiser and say, “Everything’s been screened. Some of it’s UGC for sure but it’s really good stuff.” And that’s the only way to get by the advertiser. I can’t foresee a filtering way to get by the advertiser. And I think they’re right to have that kind of demand. And as far as the user goes, if you say you’ve got a taxidermy how-to, shame on you for having one that’s not or that’s an advertisement for somebody else. And the thing is if you go to other how-to sites and you end up on a taxidermy ad instead of a taxidermy how-to you get a little pissed off so you just… matter of common sense. You don’t want to do those things.
Andrew: Okay. Rumor has it that you guys are already profitable? True?
Interviewee: That’s true.
Andrew: It is?
Interviewee: It is.
Andrew: Wow. And how long have you guys been in business?
Interviewee: January…well, look it took us a year and a half of research and so January ’08 was when we opened the doors to the public.
Andrew: Okay. So within two years you hit profitability.
Andrew: Wow. Isn’t that…isn’t that a problem when you’re a funded company?
Interviewee: Why is it a problem?
Andrew: I thought they were looking for non-profits because the tax advantages of being… the tax advantages of growth are…
Interviewee: No. I think everybody wants a profitable company. I mean, no. I don’t think anybody wants to lose money. There’s no tax advantage really of losing money. There’s some tax benefits that ease the pain but everybody would rather make money.
Andrew: Okay. Wow. Can you give us a sense of how much profit?
Interviewee: No. We just turned the corner is what it amounts to so we’re not Fort Knox yet.
Andrew: Okay. Let’s just go through a few questions here from the audience pr some of their feedback and then I’ll ask one or two last questions. Kirsten Winkler says, she’s saying that Gary Weinerchuck says that DJ’s and filters for content will be as important as content creators on the internet. True? Do you agree with that statement
Interviewee: Well, I think that yeah, I think he’s actually kind of right. It’s interesting from a pure content creator point of view, Gary is correct. Namely again, when you go on Google and you’re searching a how-to or something and you get a lot of false positives and false results and you end up on the second page and you can’t quite get what you want, you go, “Oh. There is a reason why I want specialized search. There is a reason why I want different filters from that which Google gives to me.” So I agree with that.
Andrew: Will Lamb is asking how long did it take you guys to go from concept to working prototype? So you mentioned a year and a half but once you decided on the direction, how long did it take you? You said a year and a half from when you –
Interviewee: Let’s see. I’m trying to …it’s a little hazy to me now but I would say there was six months of pure research where we were just looking to see what the internet had unrelated to any kind of programming needs. Then I would say it took a full year of coding and starting with one programmer, getting rid of that programmer, redoing the templates…
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Interviewee: …starting with the sects. So it took a full year and a quarter before we were ready to launch. I just takes a long…
Interviewee: For me, I mean… part of it was that I come from television so, I was learning a new language. Not that I can’t program to save my life but just the whole process of the internet was completely different from the process of television. So, putting my hands into a coder or something that I’m completely not used to doing. In television, you can tell the director and the editor and the line producer what to do but you can’t do that on the internet. It doesn’t work that way.
Andrew: Alright, and they were all in-house developers right?
Andrew: It still is?
Andrew: Ok. Let me go back a little bit in time here where Paul Twitters was saying that prostitution is legal in Buenos Aires which is interesting. Brian Carey is saying, “Great interview so far”. Thank you Brian. He is also saying that he is in Buenos Aires and “I hope to have a drink with you soon”. And he is saying that I should tell you that he knows that he can watch COPS down here. So I guess he watches it on TV here.
I got a couple of questions about how you met your co-founder.
Andrew: How did you and Mike meet?
Interviewee: Well let’s see, when I was making television, part of the process of making a pilot or any particular show is you have to find someone to do the graphic packages so you technically have a traditional open or you have bumpers in and bumpers out and those tend to be graphic packages there. You know, four and half seconds long in those particular cases. Or sometimes you need a promo and you need a graphic bed that will say “America’s Most Wanted, Saturday Night at 9 o’clock”. You need a graphic designer to do that sometimes it’s in-house sometimes it’s out of house. Mike was an out of house graphic designer whom I used in the days when I was producing television to graphic design certain elements of shows.
Andrew: Alright, coming up at the end of the hour. In fact we exceeded the time that I ask you for. So thanks for staying a little bit longer with us.
Interviewee: Thank you very much Andrew.
Andrew: But before I go, I’ve gotta ask you two questions. First of all, I keep numbering my questions. I should just ask questions. I don’t need to say any <…> to ask you questions.
Interviewee: You don’t need to ask them… Yeah, numbers…
Andrew: Right, I wouldn’t see a professional do it. In fact, that’s the first thing I would like to ask you. As an experience professional whose been in the TV business forever. Can you give me some advise on how I could do this well. My goal here is just to interview entrepreneurs like you about how they built their business.
Interviewee: Well that’s the funniest question I’ve ever heard in my life… from the internet.
Andrew: That’s completely unprofessional. First of all, take that question out in the future interviews….
Interviewee: No, no, no…. no, no, no, no…. It’s a television question. I’m trying to think actually. Well actually I have a conversation with Todd. And I said, “Well, I’ve looked into Andrew’s previous interviews and I think what he did is interesting. He is able to find people that I didn’t otherwise know about who in the future will be… whatever in valley wag or silicon cruncher, tech cruncher whatever it is. And I think that there is a lot of industry to digging those people out especially if you are doing it from Buenos Aires. I’m actually quite impressed that you are able…
How long have you been there… in Buenos Aires?
Andrew: About a month. A little longer.
Interviewee: How long are you gonna stay there?
Andrew: ’til we get bored I guess or until I can’t keep doing this.
Interviewee: Well, it’s pretty impressive to be able to do that from Bue… I mean obviously it is possible to do it but the answer is, I hadn’t heard of you and so I guess my first question to Todd was, “How come I haven’t heard of this guy before?”. Coz I do like some of the interviews that you did and you know, I mean for example, I don’t know… there was some woman who works up north who worked for instructibles and she was… I can’t remember… But it caught my eye…
Andrew: Mia Culver
Interviewee: Ok… so it caught my eye for whatever reason. And I said, “Well I haven’t seen that…”, I mean I spend my time because I’m a recovering development executive and all I use to do is look for ideas. So, I scan newspapers and magazines all day long and I look for whatever’s next new. It’s kind of just this silly addiction I have and so, my favorite magazines… and I happen to love W magazine because I read articles that I’d never read anywhere else… or I never see anywhere else and I happen to really admire this other interior design magazine called World of Interiors and I see articles there that I never see anywhere else. So, I said to Todd about your side. I said, “I see interviews that I’ve never seen before and some of these people are interesting.”. So I think the first thing is you have to… I don’t know…
Andrew: No, say it. Don’t hold back.
Interviewee: No, it’s… you have to know exactly what your concept is and then you gotta shout it out to the hills so that everybody knows exactly what that concept is. And with the name of your site…
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Interviewee: …I couldn’t quite understand…you know, it’s like a show title for a show. It’s like, what does that mean exactly? What does he do? And I think that…I’m not sure because I didn’t try to read what your site was about but to me your site was about finding, I’m guessing, finding the next big entrepreneurs before they hit Tech Crunch and Valley Wag and stuff like that. And if that’s what it is, or if that is the idea, then you have to have a name that fits that and then you have to have a kind of marketing plan that fits that and then you’ve got to give testimony that you’ve done it better than everybody else. And you’ve got to like slam it from 500 different angles so that me, as a user, when I land on that site I go, “Oh, duh. Of course I get it. I know exactly what it is. Ah, here’s the proof that’s he’s better than everybody else in this…” So I kind of had to put all those things together in my head and I was going, “That’s too much work for me to have to put that together. That’s his job not mine.” So I think it’s just distilling the idea and then marketing it, shouting it and proof of concept. That kind of thing.
Andrew: That’s a great point. Thanks. That’s a great point. It is, you’re right, it is complicated the message that I’m sending out there. I’m trying to interview internet entrepreneurs who have something to teach us and I’m not making it clear enough.
Interviewee: I see. Well is the teaching the part of it or you really want to be the first person to interview them? Or like there was a couple of famous…I don’t know. Did you have Jimmy Wales or whatever? Did you have somebody like that?
Andrew: Yeah. Jimmy Wales, specifically the founder of –
Interviewee: Again, it’s just the, you know, what is the claim or promise that you’re making? So I couldn’t understand why you’d have Jimmy Wales and then that girl at the same time. I’m like, “Okay. What is the point? Is the point that…?” I don’t know. It should be clear…I mean, I’m getting a little bit harsh. It should be clear what your business model is or…it should just be like…the essence should be right there. You get it without having to look too far. And I kind of…I get it but I had to find pieces here and there and looking about and all that stuff and that’s too much work for me.
Andrew: All right. You’re right. That is my job and I should do a better job of that. All right. And then the second question, since I’ve numbered them, is who else should I be interviewing? I’m looking for people who’ve achieved incredible things online who can teach us. People like you who came out of nowhere and suddenly hit seven or eight million unique. I wanted to learn from you. Who else is out there that maybe I wouldn’t know about? That maybe the rest of us wouldn’t have discovered because you’re working and not going to conferences?
Interviewee: I’d be happy to think about it and get back to you. Off the top of my head I am…I am a little focussed on Wonder How To so I know there are sites that I admire out there. I’ll tell you a site that I admire that’s very much in a different space. I like OVGuide quite a bit. Do you know them?
Andrew: Yep. A little bit. OVGuide dot com.
Interviewee: Have you interviewed David Bonnet or anything?
Interviewee: They’re another Beverly Hills company. I mean, they’re another California company. They very much curate the web; not so much a how-to but different sites. Now they have gotten into a very interesting area that is both good and bad which is they index or they curate the web for the best sites in terms of…pirated video and pornography. And those are two areas that I wouldn’t personally go into but they’ve built this beast of a company and huge traffic and they’re kind of unknown. They’re like the biggest site that’s very unknown. And they’re right here in Los Angeles. I think they have a very interesting operation. A guy named –
Andrew: Do you know them?
Interviewee: Yes I do.
Andrew: You do? Can you make an intro by email?
Interviewee: Very happy to.
Andrew: I’d love it. Thank you. All right.
Interviewee: I’ll think of other ones but that is exactly how you do it. You find somebody good and then you just keep nailing it. You just keep asking that person relentlessly. So, no it’s fine. I’d be happy to introduce you guys.
Andrew: All right. I love it. I appreciate it. And like you said, that’s how I do it from here in Buenos Aries. Just keep asking and asking. Well, is there anything that I missed? Is there anything that you want to tell people before we go?
Interviewee: No. I’m quite content. I’m okay. I haven’t thought about that question but I’m okay.
Andrew: All right. So I’m going to say good-bye to everybody here and I’m going to ask them to do three things. The first thing is, I just asked Stephen for a feedback. I’d love your feedback on this, on this interview, any other interviews. Come back to Mixergy and tell me. Number two, I urge you guys to find a way to get in touch with Stephen. What’s the best way for people who are watching us here to get in touch with you? Are you on twitter?
Interviewee: Well, actually the easiest way is contact@WonderHowTo.com. I answer all the contact emails so just go to Wonder How To and you’ll find, at the bottom, it’ll say “contact” and I answer all of those.
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Andrew: And you heard how he got a job with Rupert Murdoch. If you’re a clever kid right out of school who can develop, who can do some SCO, who could do something to help him, go and just offer to help him relentlessly for free, and I’m sure you’ll build up a relationship that will be valuable in the future. Can I said that?
Interviewee: You can.
Andrew: Alright, and check out wonderhowto.com and more importantly go to Quantcast and check out wonderhowto.com. I’m telling you guys are going to be excited and you’re going to see why it is that I wanted to do this interview. And finally, click around mixergy … tons of other interviews with entrepreneurs. Some of the ones that we mentioned here are especially good like the one with Jimmy Wales where he talks about how he built Wikipedia. Learn from them, build an incredible website and then come back here so I can interview you guys. And thank you, thank you for doing this interview, Stephen.
Interviewee: Thank you very much Andrew.
END OF RECORDING