Confab: New-media growth fickle

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Put it up and watch what happens — that's the mantra of executives at leading Internet news and video sites as they try to keep tabs on how content is evolving in the era of YouTube and MySpace, according to a panel featuring Internet and creative executives Tuesday at the Digital Hollywood conference in Santa Monica.

"Since you can't predict it, you sort of have to just let it get out there," said Alan Citron, general manager of TMZ.com, about his surprise at what generated response from the online audience. "There's a huge appetite for this stuff," he added, referring to the celebrity-driven news that TMZ features. "People want to see people as they actually are in public. This stuff bounces around the Internet like a boomerang," Citron said.

Citron also said that any content has value on the Web as long as it is interesting. Joe Michaels, director business development at MSN Entertainment, emphasized the interactive nature of content in the digital realm and the prevalence of multitasking behavior during the panel, held as part of the conference at Loews Santa Monica Hotel, which runs through Thursday.

"We want to enable users to share their content and draw on community aspects of technology," Michaels said, comparing the scale that Internet leaders like MSN bring to content distribution to the traditional networks.

For Albie Hecht, founder and CEO of Worldwide Biggies Inc., it's that same multitasking behavior of the younger generation on which he plans to capitalize.

"Kids now are watching TV, listening to music, talking on the phone and IM-ing," Hecht said. "For me, it's an opportunity to create an entertainment experience that really captures that."

Jordan Hoffner, Google Video's head of news and premium content partnerships, raised the question of digital rights and how digital content creators should be compensated for exhibition of their work. Shawn Gold, chief marketing officer and head of marketing and content at MySpace, said that sites like MySpace are operating in a world where everyone has the rights to content.

"How people use content on the Web is really changing," Gold said. "MySpace users are taking content and really selling it to each other through their own MySpace pages."

It's that user-created content aspect that John Penney, HBO's senior vp new media business planning, said was most revolutionary.

"To take a look at the creative work without a studio is very exciting," Penney said, "to see what changes in the actual creative process when people are using these new technological tools."

Jordan Levin, co-founder of Generate and former CEO of WB Network, summed up the discussion's main points by stating that content can no longer be separated between different media platforms.

"Content no longer is 'just' a network show," Levin said. "There are avenues and platforms to which organic extensions will work."

He also said that no matter how creative content is now consumed, mainstream ideas that once filled the broadcast model are no longer prevalent.

"The diversity of voices is a pretty radical change," Levin said. "Taking risk with new content is emerging in a big way."
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