All posts by Stewart

Fast Forward: Video on Demand and the Future of Television

Written for Genuine Article Press in 1999, as a new medium for television began to come to life. The 200-page book was underwritten by technology provider nCube as an excellent way to educate potential customers and partners about the emergence of video-on-demand. A great vehicle for establishing thought leadership in an important category.

Looking back today, it’s interesting to see that much of what was contemplated and theorized actually came true. Even more interesting to see that you can still buy a (used) copy on Amazon.

When animals attack…

That was actually the name of an ill-fated Fox Television series. I have no idea what it was about. Rampaging elephants? Rabid bulldogs? Kittens hopped up on Benzedrine? Who knows, but it’s one of the little tidbits of history from the start-up of the Fox network, and it’s captured in this tidy little book review I wrote awhile back.

You’ll ruin your eyes!

That’s what my mom used to tell us circa 1976 as my brother and I collapsed into a couch and squinted at a TV screen displaying, if memory serves, “Welcome Back, Kotter” or something of its ilk. The difference between now and then, as this column explains: Today you probably won’t even find two siblings in the same room watching television. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 68 percent of U.S. kids have their own TV set in their own room. (The other 32 percent are probably doing something horrible like playing outside.) My editorial aside: This is no organic, self-generating development. It’s actually very much in the economic interests of the TV biz to splinter audiences into lotsa little demographic vectors that can be packaged and sold to advertisers. Unfortunately, the price we pay is a generation of isolated little kids. I’m pretty certain Mr. Woodman (he was the principal in “Kotter”) would disapprove.

The definitive word on broadband

Anybody who ever tells you that conceiving, editing, organizing and producing a book is enjoyable is a bloody liar. What’s enjoyable is when it’s finally finished and you can fondle the thing whilst sipping Pinot Grigio. Still, this reprise of the original 2001 version of Definitive Broadband had its moments. Working with the masterful writer Leslie Ellis is always a delight; and reviewing final page proofs in the company of Lundwall Communications’ talented designer Tim Ingersoll was made all the more pleasant by the fact that he brews pretty good beer. (Which probably explains that one unfortunate typo. Or was it two?) If you’re a technology geek, or just like cool pictures and well-written explanations of things, you can order yourself a copy.

Remembering Pete

Years ago a foolhardy crew of publishing folks, including a wonderful mentor, Tom Southwick, decided to start a weekly industry magazine that would compete with an established, dominant rival. We were too young then to know it was almost certain to fail. Which was a good thing, because somehow we actually made it work, sold it for real money, and went on to new adventures. Anyway, one of the reasons we made it was because of entrepreneurs like Peter Szabo, who, operating purely on a hunch, decided to support us with meaningful advertising dollars. Pete was this instinctive fellow with a twinkle in his eye…as if he knew a secret you didn’t. Pete died in 2006, and he’s missed. Here’s a bit about his professional life: this brief profile was, as you might imagine, no fun.

A telecommunications turnaround

When I wrote this profile of then-troubled Qwest Communications, the stock traded at something like $1. By summer 2006 it was up to $9. Credit has to go to in large measure to chairman/CEO Richard Notebaert, who I described in this December 2004 ColoradoBiz article this way:

“The Qwest chairman will earn $4.6 million in compensation this year, but there is a quality of earnestness about Notebaert that makes it possible to imagine him as the union laborer he once was. The former Chicagoan is an animated conversationalist who peppers his language with phrases like ‘My gracious!’ He makes a point of replying directly to e-mail messages he receives from customers and employees alike.”

Pretty doe-eyed stuff, I suppose. But he had me at “hello.”

An industry in transition

Didn’t know much about Colorado’s software industry before taking on this assignment for ColoradoBiz. I do now, thanks to the mag’s willingness to provide something unusual: enough time to interview gads of people. Biggest takeaway: It’s a sector typified by small, inventive companies with a keen knack for identifying niches.

Sidebar: One of the rewards of journalism is getting to talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise – like Nadine Lange, a fiery, candid, wonderful entrepreneur who bet her career on a hunch having something to do with the arcane world of mailroom processing. She seems to have won.