It feels just like the “good old days” in “Silicon Alley,” when Jason & Tom and Jason are scrapping, Fred‘s weighing in, and commenters are jumping in with plenty of thoughts. All sparked by a NYT “Style” section story about the resurgence of the Alley. (Has it really been 10 years?)
I worked at @NY back in the day (beginning in 1998) and watched the @NY/SAR battle up close. At @NY, there was always the aim to burst the hype bubble, but we were also caught up in a generalized excitement about the revolution that was underway — the ideas, the energy, and, yes, the wealth creation. Tom and Jason were especially interested in pioneering a new digital publishing medium — not in chronicling the rise of a digital medium via a print magazine. Both Tom and Jason are very talented writers, journalists and thinkers — if you have any doubt, read their blogs — and I feel privileged to have worked with them at such an interesting time. Still, they certainly didn’t grow @NY at anything nearing SAR’s pace. (As others have said, they did cash out at the right time, though.)
It probably would have been smarter, business-wise, in those days, to go with print, as Calacanis did. Calacanis was and is a great promoter and he did some pioneering events. He did some things with the magazine, like the SAR 100, that really captured the zeitgeist. Some of his SAR reporters, notably Rafat Ali
and Staci Kramer, now of paidcontent.org, have gone on to do some amazing work, which proves Calacanis has an eye for journalistic talent. He embodied Silicon Alley, for many, as a young enterpreneur with hustle. (The best moment I think was the New Yorker profile, featuring some beautiful black-and-white photos.) Even now, as CEO of Weblogs Inc under AOL, he’s an incredibly entertaining guy. But he’s not infallible either.
One of my friends, in the depths of the dot-com meltdown, asked me acidly if I still believed the Internet was going to “change the world.” “Hell, yes,” I said. Or something to that effect. Over the course of the past few years, we’ve seen media consumption habits shift dramatically. We’ve seen new businesses spring up to become successful with models that were “too early” back in the day.
As for the NYT piece, it doesn’t annoy me, as it does Jason Chervokas, that it appears in the “Style” section. Silicon Alley was about both style and substance, and perhaps the piece was more about the cultural aspects, rather than the business aspects, of the phenomenon. I think the Times does a decent job — though obviously a mainstream media job, and not a cutting-edge job — of covering Internet media business these days. (The “slivercasting” piece by Saul Hansell is a good example.)
Ok, enough rambling from me (I gotta get back to work covering this Internet media thing). Here are a few other posts on the subject:
- Jason Chervokas – Style over Substance in Silicon Alley
- Tom Watson: Bulletin: Silicon Alley is still Dead
- Jason Calacanis: 10 years later… lessons from the SAR/@NY Battle
- Fred Wilson: Alley Wag and Revisionist History, Calacanis Style
- Brouhaha: Back Alley Fighting
- Steve Gilliard: Warning, bullshit alert
- i-boy: Fight club, Silicon Alley Style
- The Daily Om: Silicon Alley vs Silicon Alley
UPDATE: My memory of Staci Kramer working at SAR was faulty (thanks, Staci!). Turns out she was a contributing editor at Inside.com, and not even based in NYC, during those days.
UPDATE2: Got “The Complete New Yorker” and updated with the black and white photo of Calacanis (with his bulldog) that I recalled and mentioned in this post. It was the October 18, 1999 issue. Another classic photo from the same issue: Courtney Pulitzer.