John Battelle

Entrepreneur, journalist, professor, and author. Founder of Wired, Federated Media, and NewCo.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 23, 2015

Discussion

John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
Hey Product Hunt folk! My name is John Battelle, Founder and CEO of NewCo. Over the years I've pretty much focused on one thing: The story of technology and its impact on society. Along the way I've written a book, started six companies, taught at Berkeley, given the commencement address at my elementary school (and my University!), lived mostly in the SF Bay Area, and raised a family. I love this industry, and it f*cking drives me crazy too. Ask me anything!
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey John. Welcome :) 1) Why did you start NewCo and what are you hoping to accomplish? We can't wait to participate :) 2) The adblocker debate - where do you stand on it and how do you explain it to the layman/woman?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
Hey @Erik so stoked you're doing NewCo!
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg NewCo is really about a huge, sweeping narrative in the culture of business, and the business of culture. As with nearly everything I've started or been part of starting, it's a company that has a big story at its core. Like Wired, it's emergence is due to large societal shifts (for Wired, it was the realization that technology was going to change just about everything in society). For NewCo, it's about creating a new culture of business - we're shifting away from mass consumption-based capitalism - the primary model for the past 50 years - and into a more conscious, soulful approach to business. Profit was the central driver in the old model, but in what's emerging, profit is table stakes. We can and we must expect more from our companies.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg I've been deeply involved in this discussion as you might expect. I am the Chair of an adtech company (sovrn) and wrestled with this issue on the IAB board some five years ago. I think the eruption of ad blocking as a major story (thanks to Apple) reflects a healthy movement toward a saner approach to the social contract between publisher, advertiser, and audience. Ideally it will drive a leaner, more thoughtful ecosystem around value exchange between all parties. I'll be posting on it soon.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@johnbattelle @eriktorenberg where is the big controversy in this right now?
Benjamin Mock@benjaminmock
I'm going to ask a @tferriss question which I think shows quite much of a persons habits and character: What does your morning routine look like? How do you structure your first 60-90 minutes each day?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@benjaminmock Yeah, I'm not much of a routine guy, I am afraid. Too much travel. However, I do have a few things that are critical in the morning, no matter where I am. First, I check in. Did I get enough sleep? Do I have time to workout or practice (yoga)? If not, I usually reschedule my day so I can take care of myself. That is primary. I can't be a good father, husband, CEO, or anything else if I don't have time for that.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@benjaminmock Second, I have a greens drink. It centers me - more of a ritual than anything else. And then a Blue Bottle drip coffee. And then, it's a half hour of email, and if it's a good day, some writing. Then into the office.
Through the Cracks@crowdjournalism
What are some stories you've seen in the headlines lately that have a NewCo flavor to them?
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Who is the most impressive person you've ever met? What do you think that person can teach the rest of us about living highly impactful lives?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@melissajoykong Wow. I've been lucky to meet and interact with a lot of amazing folks. This is a really hard question. Probably Elon Musk. I remember asking him on stage how on earth he managed to actually *do* what most of us just talked about doing during pot-fueled riff sessions at college. He kind of chuckled and said something about not sleeping a lot.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@melissajoykong Thinking over this, I might also argue it was Bill Clinton. Right after all the blue dress drama. He was so damn focused, on point, smart, lucid, powerful. He utterly charmed my wife (who wasn't in the mood to be charmed by him as you might expect).
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What does the playbook look like for expanding to a new NewCo city?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg The key in each city is the local partner - they have the connections, the network, the knowledge. We run the NewCos in the Bay Area, NY and LA, places where we have strong networks. For other cities, we partner, they are our lifeblood.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg Just about every city is a NewCo city, I think. Cities are the "tangled banks" where connections between people are made, they are the places we create our largest problems, and the places where we solve those problems. NewCos are not just tech companies, they are in every category across every part of the world. Retail, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, you name it, new kinds of companies are solving interesting problems in new ways.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@johnbattelle What would you do with 1 Billion dollars?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@bentossell I'd invest in companies I thought could change the world in a positive way. And I'd probably start a foundation with a new approach to philanthropy. Wealth is a huge responsibility, I think.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@johnbattelle @bentossell what would that approach to philanthropy be?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg @bentossell Not sure, would have to really study it. I know others have done the same - from Gates to Omidyar to Theil...and with mixed results. But what an honor to be able to think about such a topic.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi John! Thanks for joining us today 😄What has been your proudest moment to date in your career?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
Hey @Emily, thanks for the question. Proudest moment? Launch, it's usually the launch! When Wired came back off the presses, and I held it in my hands. When we ran the first ads on blogs - cleared by the author of the site - at Federated Media. When we launched the first integration of brands on Twitter in 2008. When we pulled off the first NewCo in SF!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
John! Welcome. I recently caught a summary of @karaswisher's interview with Buzzfeed's @peretti where he shared some interesting data on where their traffic is coming from. TL;DR: only 23% is directly to their site and the rest is distributed across other platforms, most notably Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. As @startupljackson referred to in a recent tweet, is this the future of media? How do you see media and traditional publishing changing in 5 years?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@rrhoover yes, platforms are the new reality for all publishers. The Washington Post just announced all of its articles will be published on Facebook Instant for example. In the NewCo media model (we're launching a publishing platform in 2016), we plan on being platform agnostic. However, it's critical that you maintain a solid home base on the open web. You never want to be entirely beholden to a platform's whims.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@rrhoover In five years, I think the open web will be back, stronger than ever, and the platforms will have far more dependable business models for publishers. Right now, the ground rules of how you do business with them are not well established.
Lalo@lalo
What are your thoughts regarding search engines being more transparent with the results they deliver? Specially with the power that comes by tailoring search results to influence people like shown in this article http://www.dailydot.com/politics... Are we expected to see more regulation regarding search engines?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@lalo Regulation is usually about five years behind reality. So yes, I expect we will see more regulation of search. But then the guns will turn to social, I'd expect.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
Or Larry Page, when I researched the Google/Search book. "Wouldn't it be cool if you knew all the sites that were linking to yours?" That was Backrub, which became Google.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Building a media company is thought by many to be a financially challenging (if not unsustainable) task. You've started a few pretty big ones :-) What are your thoughts on the viability of content-first businesses?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@melissajoykong Media companies are insane to do. Just about as crazy as an on demand startup or any other! Most fail. You have to be passionate about it, to the point of ignoring the obvious obstacles. You have to be convinced the story you are telling is one that must be heard.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
You've had a front-row seat in the media business for a while, and you know the ins and outs better than almost anyone. What are your predictions for the future of media in 5 years? 25 years?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@melissajoykong Whoever said content is king was only half right. Content without voice and point of view is a commodity. Media companies that break out do so because they have something to say, and they've earned the right to convene a community that cares deeply about the story the company is telling. Look at Vice. They've been around for 20 years. But they "broke out" just in the past five or so years - because they stayed the course, kept at their narrative, made a shitload of mistakes, and learned from them.
@johnbattelle Great to see you doing this! Former FM'er here. What are your thoughts on the recent 'controversy' regarding Apple's introduction of ad blocking capabilities into iOS? The technology has been around for a while.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@sgclark I think anyone who thinks Apple is doing this because they're "looking out for their users" is not paying attention. It's a very convenient narrative for Apple - "we're keeping your experience clean and well lit" - and it's certainly consistent to their brand. However, it also just happens to drive a stake into Google's heart - at least, that's what I imagine Apple is hoping it will do. However, I for one am not interested in any company paternalistically deciding what content is right for me to encounter. Bullshit, I say.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@sgclark And thanks for coming by, have so many fond FM memories!
@johnbattelle @sgclark No problem! Just happened to be on PH and saw you were doing a live event, so I thought I'd drop a question! Let's grab a coffee next time you're in NYC!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
A fitting question for Product Hunt: What's on your homescreen? 😊
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@rrhoover OK - Strava, Spotify, Slack, NewCo, NetFlix, Evernote, Lyft, Band of the Day, Swarm, Twitter, GroupMe, SnapChat (I have teenagers), Chrome, my bank app, and the standard stuff like Contacts, Calendar, etc.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@rrhoover And hey - Product Hunt's session is now live! Get in while the getting is good! http://newcobaybridgefestivals20...
Morgan Beller@beller · Corporate Development, Facebook
Hey John! Thanks for "coming in." Quite the Renaissance man! Of all the hats you've worn (entrepreneur, writer, professor, etc.), which is your favorite?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@beller Oh by far it's writing, not because I'd rather be writing, but because when I do, all my other activities get way, way better and more focused.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@beller I've written a lot more than I've ever published. I write a note to staff every Sunday night, for example. It really forces me to reflect on what's important to the business.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@beller Of course, there's really nothing like the sustained rush of starting a new company. It's totally an addiction. In 2014 I tried to step back and only write. It did not work. An idea takes you over, you can't ignore it or push it away. It demands to be brought to life.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi @johnbattelle! You've interviewed a ton of awesome people over the years. What are your favorite interview questions?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@alexcartaz One of my favorite tropes, at the end of an interview, is to ask the subject to state the first word that comes to mind for a given topic or company. If I've done my job, it usually is quite revealing. IE, ask Ev about Facebook. Or ask Zuck about Google. Etc...
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@alexcartaz Or ask the CEO of AT&T about net neutrality.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@johnbattelle interesting! thanks =)
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Also @johnbattelle, you've written a ton about Uber over the past year - what's your recent stance on what's happening?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@alexcartaz Very glad you asked. I think uber is coming of age as a citizen. If a company is going to have many of the same rights as a person (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ci...) then it's time we expected our leading companies (in fact all of our companies) to act like a true citizen in the communities where it plays. I think Uber is realizing that. This year will mark the first year Uber is a NewCo in SF, for example.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
If you had unlimited time, what would be the titles of 3 books you'd write?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg If/Then, an anthropology of the near future (that's the book I stopped writing so I could start NewCo!)
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg A novel about adoption and connection, untitled. But I think there's something unique to say there, and I've lived it.
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg And most likely, a book reflecting on the past 30 years. It's been an amazing and really wild ride, one that is in no way near complete.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@johnbattelle @eriktorenberg Have you written a novel before? or how close?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@eriktorenberg No I've not. It'd be a challenge I'd love to try. But I know it's not something you do lightly. How close? Well, I'm adopted, and always wanted to find my father. I did find my mother, thanks to a search engine called Alta Vista back in 1995.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi John, what are you excited for in terms of 2016 politics?
John Battelle@johnbattelle · Founder NewCo
@ems_hodge Larry Lessig!!! https://lessig2016.us/ and Bernie Sanders. And Trump, because hell, that forces an honest conversation, no? Great year for politics.