InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller fielded questions [video clip here] from Web 2.0 conference host John Battelle and the audience about how his recent purchase of ask.com (Ask Jeeves), with Google, Yahoo and MSN breathing down his neck, and how the entertainment industry is morphing.
Diller said the key to growing Ask is to differentiate the search service and leverage the IAC network. "The first thing is to gather the service itself togehter so it's different in as good ways as possible," Diller said. "In terms of features and intuitively what it does, we think we are there now with Ask. If we can make them dramatic enough and market them noisily enough, that's the way to gain share. The 50 million users coursing through IAC also helps. You can't do it by some brand rhetoric noise, you do it by taking every day and figuring out what you can do to differentiate and get that across to people." That said, Ask will have to do something extremely dramatic to take share away from the search engine leaders.
On the entertainment front, media mogul Diller doesn't believe that user generated content is going to impact the television, film or game industry. "When you get into forms of entertainment, talent always wins out. There isn't that much talent in the world. An audience of 8 to 12 people might be interested in someone's individual expression, but the process of people with talent and expertise making entertainment products won't be displaced by 18-year-olds making videos, except maybe on 'Funniest Home Videos.,'" Diller said.
J.D. Lasica of OurMedia.org, which is a home for the long tail of media content, challenged Diller's view on entertainent, but Diller maintained that the talent pool for mass engines of communication and entertaiment is limited, and the mass of user generated content isn't going to supplant it. The reality is that they will co-exist, and as everything converges around the Net those with talent will tend to rise to the top for both mass audiences and micro audiences.