Convergence urge

Diller tells confab to change dot-com rules

USA Networks topper Barry Diller warned Wednesday against “media imperialism” when it comes to technology initiatives, urging traditional entertainment companies to change the rules of engagement when tackling convergence.

“We’ve got multibillion dollar companies experimenting in new media and convergence without understanding what it’s all about,” he said while delivering the keynote address at the Internet World confab Wednesday.

Affected by the recent dot-com implosion, attendance at the convention was perceptibly down than in previous years and the mood among attendees seemed dour. Several Web browsers at public computer terminals were set to doomsayer site FuckedCompany.com, to check on updates of the latest layoffs and closures in the tech arena.

Internet World runs through Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“Hollywood is coming to see Silicon Valley and vice versa without really knowing why … you can’t treat these new opportunities as extensions of our past experiences,” Diller said in his speech.

Diller drew upon his own experience leaving Fox for QVC as a guide as to how to approach new media enterprises. By combining elements of television, retailing, advertising, computers and the telephone, Diller sees his work with QVC as an early harbinger of how to deal with convergence.

“The more I described (QVC) to myself and others, the more I started to believe there was artfulness to this convergence,” he said. “They may grow awkwardly, they’re always going to be awkward at the beginning … but you have to have an attitude of real exploration. You have to have a willingness to subordinate your ideas instead of imposing them.”

With the stock market plummeting ever further, Diller alluded to the popular new media practice of changing strategy in response to investor fortunes.

“Even we had to rethink things,” Diller quipped. “We have this movie called ‘Traffic’ and it was originally about a Gen X Internet portal. But we thought cocaine was a more sustainable business model. So we kept the title and changed everything else.”

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