Saturday, February 02, 2008

Interviewees I Really Should Have Kept In Touch With

From the Burro Hall Way-back Machine, here's an excerpt from a Frontline hour Marty, Jim and I made nearly 13 years ago, about these two Stanford kids named Jerry Yang and David Filo, and their silly little start-up company called Yahoo!. It seems almost embarrassingly gee-whiz now, but in early 1995, the idea that there was money to be made on the internet was still an open debate, like the future of the "horseless carriage" in, say, 1905. (There's a line in the script which we still laugh about, where we explain what "this device called a 'mo-dem'" is.)

(Note for the technophiles who want to build their own rig at home: Mr. Krulwich is rockin' a Mac Performa 630-CD [33MHz/8MB RAM, 1994 MSRP: $2,250.00], running Netscape 1.0 through a 14.4 dialup "mo-dem.")

Yes, it reads a little like a press release for Yahoo!, but it's just six minutes taken out of context. The rest of the hour makes clear that the internet will kill your babies. Still, I have no doubt these guys (or more specifically, venture capitalist in the clip, who is now worth $1.5 billion) used the hour to help drum up investment. Yang and I continued to correspond for a few years - I'd make fun of him every time he appeared on another magazine cover - until his on-paper worth started to creep over the $4 billion mark, at which point he obviously realized he could make better contacts at Davos or Renaissance Weekend.

The clip refers to Yahoo! as a "million-dollar idea," which I probably ought to correct, since Microsoft just offered to pay $44.6 billion for the company. (A week after the company announced that profits were down and they were cutting 1,000 jobs, which just show you that I still have no idea how the technology biz works.) I'm posting the clip in case anyone at Yahoo! suddenly needs to shelter a couple hundred million in some sort of off-shore blogging/money-laundering operation and is having trouble coming up with a worthy recipient.


Anonymous said...

I love the cut-aways of the finger clicking the mouse. Now that is Producing!

Burro Hall said...

Thank you for noticing! Making compelling tv out of a bunch of white guys sitting in a room typing is not easy (see also: Stahl, Lesley, collected stories of). The finger-click cutaway is something we invented, something that totally revolutionized the documentary form.

Did I mention it won an Emmy?

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken, Award Winner.

And in all seriousness I miss the days when celebrity profiles, 3-second shots and graphics accompanied by "swooshes" weren't the gold standard in TV "news" and "documentary"