The Breakdown: We’re very excited about SXSW Interactive this year. There’s an amazing lineup of content-related panels that we can’t wait to see. So we’re kicking off a series of short interviews with some of the speakers we’re most looking forward to seeing and hearing. This first one is with Rich Ziade (@richziade), Partner & Lead Strategist at Arc90, who will be giving a talk called The Revenge of the Editorials with his colleague Tim Meaney (@timothymeaney).
S/G: What inspired your talk, The Revenge of Editorials?
Rich: In short, this: Google Reader (1000+).
I use Google Reader pretty regularly and to constantly be told “hey Rich, guess what? There are over 1,000 entries that you haven’t read yet! In fact, it’s so much more than a thousand, we stopped counting!”
I love the Web and I love how dramatically it’s lowered the barrier to publish (even the word “publish” feels outdated). Everybody can talk into the channel today. It’s an awesome democratizer. At the same time, it’s getting increasingly difficult to really find things that I value. There have been attempts to crack this puzzle – Digg, Delicious, certain social sharing mechanisms – but in the end of the day, I’m behind and I feel like I’m always behind.
At the same time, I feel like the attempts to manage the firehose is just more of the same thing: technology being used to solve a mess that technology got us in in the first place. As a result, the real appeal of content and the human elements of creating, composing and lovingly arranging content are going out the window.
I need to be able to lean on people I trust and respect to better present information for me. I don’t want a “stream” or a “river” of anything. I want to stop drowning and I want quality to win over quantity.
S/G: What’s the antidote for Demand Media?
Rich: I don’t think Demand Media and its ilk even need an antidote. I think Demand is inevitably on a path to face a backlash, if it hasn’t started already. What’s happened with the Web is similar to what happened in the wake of the industrial revolution: massive efficiencies in production and distribution. The result? Everyone in America could eat the exact same shrink-wrapped Twinkie for $.25. After WWII, this world of automation and mass distribution was hailed as utopian. Fast forward to today, and you’re left with a palatable backlash against mass-produced anything and an embracing of all things that show some semblance of craftsmanship and artisanal care. We are in the age of commoditized junk food content. The backlash and flight towards quality is inevitable.
S/G: What is the Cult of Innovation?
Rich: The Cult of Innovation is just a place for Arc90 to share the things that surprise and inspire us. In this interview, I’ve been lambasting the “Junkyard Web” but in the midst of all that stuff flying our way, there’s always something inspiring waiting to be found. We just wanted a place to share these bits that we come across. Innovation is a big part of the DNA of Arc90. We like to think of ourselves as a forward-looking shop that constantly gives the status quo dirty looks. Kindling, our idea management product, also shares in that spirit.
S/G: What are you looking forward to seeing at SXSW?
Rich: We’re looking forward to just being there! We’re SXSW virgins at Arc90 and we’re excited to hopefully meet in person all the great people we’ve connected with through the usual Web channels. Oh…and the film festival. I’m a sucker for a good film.