Supernova and the Centrality of Paris Hilton

Along with Mike Arrington, Josh Kopelman, and Julie Farris, I was on a startup panel at the Supernova conference today in San Francisco. Thirteen (okay, twelve) companies presented, and we did a kind of wrap-up discussion at the end.

Being the tireless empiricist that I am, I had counted how many presenting companies mentioned each of the following items/keywords, and then I talked about why it was interesting:

  • Ajax: 0
  • Wiki: 0
  • Facebook: 1
  • iPhone: 1
  • Wireless/mobile: 2
  • Google: 2 (!)
  • Web 2.0: 2
  • Paris Hilton: 5

Granted, this isn’t statistically representative, but it is still important. A year ago we would have heard Web 2.0 non-stop, two years ago Wikis, and three years ago Google. Today, however, all of those were most noteworthy by their (almost entire) absence.

Fellow panelist Josh Kopelman commented, with some chagrin, on the remarkable number of companies whose demos mentioned Paris Hilton. While I generally agree with Josh on most things, on this one we were on opposite sides.

Sure, I have diddly use for Ms Hilton and the 24×7 coverage of her brief jail visit, but there is a deeper import here. A bunch of blogs that I don’t read, like TMZ, are newly winning the traffic wars. What such sites generally have in common is that they don’t even have passing acquaintance with technology, geek-ish stuff, and early adopters. Instead, they are oriented toward the sort of inane pablum that fills supermarket glossies, 7pm TV shows, and such. They are, in other words, all about celebrities, gossip, and entertainment.

And that is, in a word, awesome. Why? Because it is unassailable evidence of the arrival of the web as mass, popular media. When sites like TMZ rocketed past TechCrunch, et al., a year ago, it was splended and unremarked proof of why the advertising allocation to the web was low and lagging further every day. The hordes had come, and the money would soon follow.

The web as mass media remains underestimated. I couldn’t have been happier to hear Paris’s name over and over again today — and I liked my fellow panelists discomfiture almost as much.


  1. what about ethanol, clean energy, eveything green

  2. That is the blatantly-obvious-when-you-think-about-it-but-so-subtle-that-most-people-miss-it type of observation that keeps me reading your blog. It will be interesting to keep watching this as the younger generations mature. The fact that 30-somethings are already a key market segment of video game sales speaks to the same point, I believe. It seems that a few years ago, people were talking a lot about how the PC would be replace by more robust mobile devices and more capable TV systems (tivo, video on demand, etc). Your observation makes me think that it is the TV who’s days are numbered. Video on the web, on the iPhone, et al. The only thing I don’t like about all this is the role of advertising. Google isn’t a technology company any more, they are an “ad delivery” company. The fact that so much technology work is really geared towards selling ads depresses me a little. But, hey, you gotta pay the bills.

  3. Its Sleb 2.0 :)