09
Jul

5 Questions With Mike Masnick of Techdirt.com


Mike Masnick, who runs the blog Techdirt.com (a Best of the Web thought leader award winner from both Forbes and Business Week), is one of the best online sources for commentary and analysis of the challenges that face online entrepreneurs. Mike is well known for his championing of copyright reform and his strong focus on the notion of innovation and fan/customer interaction being paramount for online success (an example being his formulation of: Connect with Fans (CwF) and give them a Reason to Buy (RtB)).

We really wanted Mike to be at the event this year, but he had other commitments during our scheduled weekend–but he was happy to contribute to our community by answering a few questions (which we are sure will be discussed at the event this year in our many panels and workshops):

Intervention: What, in your opinion, is the current biggest obstacle to online innovation?

MM: Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles in the way these days, but if I had to narrow it down to a single one, it’s policies that are driven by legacy players, rather than the innovators. It’s tough to innovate when the big legacy companies are working hard to put up as many barriers as possible.

Intervention: If you had to give one piece of advice to a new internet entrepreneur, what would that be?

MM: Figure out what you can disrupt. The most exciting opportunities today are in creating innovation that completely upends existing players — often by breaking down barriers, opening up and providing consumers more value, rather than locking that value up. I’m really impressed by companies that seems to flip the logic of existing industries on their head. Companies like Craigslist and Kickstarter are amazing disrupters in that they focused on providing a much better product, where the economics are totally different. Some have argued that those two companies are “leaving money on the table,” but both are making tons of money. What they’ve done is realize that a more open system that provides greater overall value can be a much better longterm bet.

Intervention:
You often speak on Techdirt about how copyright in the digital/internet age is “broken” and outdated, what can people do right now to help push their governments toward “fixing” the situation?

MM: Speak up. I think in the last year or so, we’ve seen that with people speaking out concerning excesses of copyright law, we’ve been able to push back on bad policy issues like SOPA and ACTA. In the past, we were always told that speaking out was futile, but I think 2012 has shown that’s no longer the case. But there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. So, speak out about where the system is broken.

Intervention: Techdirt is often a first source for people looking for information about copyright and it’s issues and challenges online—where do you look for your information?

MM: All over. Thankfully, these days, lots of great stories come in via submissions. But I also follow a bunch of key Twitter accounts — both of media publications and of certain individuals who just seem really good at finding stuff. I used to use RSS a lot more, but lately I’ve found that between submissions and Twitter I find plenty of news. Glyn Moody (who writes for us) is amazing at highlighting hard to find stories. Professor Michael Scott (who runs the CopyrightLaw twitter feed) turns up interesting stories. Julian Sanchez at the Cato Institute finds really good stories as well. There are certain reporters I pay a lot of attention to as well, including Tim Lee and David Kravetz. For telco issues, no one beats Karl Bode at BroadbandReports. The site TorrentFreak always turns up interesting copyright related stories as well. For patent issues, Joe Mullin is one of my favorite reporters. On privacy issues, Kash Hill does really great work. The folks at OnTheMedia turn up a variety of relevant stories as well.

Intervention: Is there something happening right now that is particularly exciting or innovative that you’d like to point out that people should support?

MM: I’m pretty excited about this new Declaration of Internet Freedom that recently came out — and I’m hopeful that people really do get behind it and support it. I think there’s a real opportunity to be much more proactive on the policy front, rather than defensive, and that’s exciting. (Intervention Editor Note: We’ve officially submitted our support for it)

On the service side, I’m amazed at the success of Kickstarter, but I think in just three years it’s had such a massive impact on a variety of projects, and that impact is growing.

Like many I’m expecting a lot more interesting things to start happening on the mobile side. Obviously the rise of the smartphone (iPhone/Android) has been disruptive, but I still feel like we’re in the first inning there. I’m waiting for the real disruption to break out on the mobile front.

Intervention: Thank you Mike, we appreciate all of your answers and taking the time to contribute to the conversation to be had at this year’s event.

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