Audiences take back SXSW panels

Fans hold nothing back from Eisner, Zuckerberg

With its music, film and interactive conferences, SXSW is many things to many people.

And among its most notable features are the annual skirmishes in which speakers who came of age in the 20th century try to prove themselves relevant to an audience that came of age in the 21st.

BusinessWeek journalist Sarah Lacy got the worst of it at this year’s confab. Despite her Web 2.0 creds (and an upcoming book on the topic), her March 9 interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was decried as the conference’s worst example of MSM (that’s mainstream media) not getting it.

Her capacity audience quickly grew frustrated with a line of questioning that favored self-involvement (book plugs) over interactivity (opening the floor to Q&A). Many took matters into their own hands by using their laptops to critique the event live on sites like Meebo and Twitter, which in turn overflowed into real-life heckling. 

Former Disney chief Michael Eisner fared a little better in his March 11 interview, conducted by HDNet chief Mark Cuban. An SRO audience remained polite throughout, even when Eisner reiterated his belief of the sanctity of copyright to a Creative Commons crowd. But they weren’t so kind afterward, with the panel frequently referred to as “the boring one.”

Rock ‘n’ roll veteran Lou Reed seemed to be heading down a similarly old-fashioned path with his March 13 keynote.

Living up to his reputation for crankiness, he showed similar disdain for the MP3 generation. “You can get any song in the world available as an MP3 and it all sounds bad. … Technology is making it easier to make things worse,” he said.

But he closed on a note that suggested he was on the aud’s wavelength after all.

While he dismissed the record industry as unnecessary (‘You have the Internet. What do you need them for?’), he had firm advice for those who pursue the biz:

“They’re going to say they want the publishing and you must say ‘no.’ That’s where the money is. The answer is ‘no.’ It’s the publishing. I wrote the song; it’s my baby. Don’t. Give. Up. The. Publishing.”

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