I’ve been using streaming service Streamyard for the past year for doing my weekly LinkedIn Live conversations. And when they recently were acquired by virtual events platform Hopin, I started to think about what this combo could potentially mean for future of two technologies that have blown up since the beginning of the pandemic. Which is why I wanted to do a conversation with Keith Teare, a Silicon Valley based investor, advisor and mentor to a number of companies participating in these industries – including Millicast and Around.co. Keith is also a founding investor in TechCrunch. Lastly, Keith and I are members of the Gillmor Gang show that can be seen weekly on TechCrunch.
And during our conversation about the future of livestreaming and virtual events, something Keith said about using newsletters, podcasts, Clubhouse and other channels led to the topic of attention. And how all these disparate technologies and channels will eventually come together to create, for lack of a better way to put it, attention platforms that allow us to focus more on providing access to what we have to offer customers, instead of the individual content outputs that may briefly capture their attention. And the bigger question of how can we create business models that work for us based on how that attention can be converted into value exchanges we can generate revenue from.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To check out the full convo click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
Brent Leary: What do you think the future of a company like Restream. They seem to be a competitor to StreamYard, but they do things that StreamYard didn’t do either.
Keith Teare: Yeah, I actually use Restream and I tried to use StreamYard to copy what I can do on Restream. In fact, I just reminded myself I haven’t canceled my Streamyard account yet… What I liked about Restream is things like lower thirds were better and use of graphics were better, but apart from that, it was fairly similar. And, I think that as you see with the rise of newsletters, you’re going to see a convergence between newsletters, video blogs, audio blogs, and the companies that integrate all of that, and I noticed that Twitter bought Revue this last week.
Brent Leary: Right.
Keith Teare: And, I tried it out because I have a newsletter called thatwastheweek.com and I used Revue and it pulled in my Twitter feed as sources, and in my case, I use Feedly to read stuff, and when I bookmark something on Feedly, it tweets it. So, my Twitter list is actually the articles I want to put in the newsletter. I just have to drag them across now and drop them. Then, I go to Restream and record a video every week. Well, that should really be built into the whole experience.
Brent Leary: All right, let’s take a step back because I remember I think it was on last week’s Gillmor Gang, where the guy that puts the Gillmor in the gang, Steve Gillmor, said something to the effect of newsletters are going to be huge going forward. They’re going to be big going forward, and I remember thinking to myself, all right, I think I see that, but who would have said that statement about 2021 like five years ago, because it seemed like things like email and newsletters and even podcasting at the time, they were kind of on the downward slope, but now we’re definitely seeing podcasting coming back with a vengeance, but now you’re saying newsletters are coming back and they all kind of work together. Can you explain why we’re seeing things that we thought were on the way out seemingly becoming even more important going forward?
Keith Teare: Well, I think it’s to do with business model. Only rare people can charge for a newsletter. The newsletter has to be really, really something to charge for it. So, it isn’t a business model and only rare people get enough listeners to a podcast to be able to advertise on it or charge for it, and the same is true of video blogs. Although, there’s a lot of very good earners on YouTube, people who do videos over and over. So, I think there’s a kind of a search for a business model. I actually think Clubhouse is part of this. The fact that Clubhouse, you can do a private room invite only, is part of answering the question, what should I give my subscribers? And so, the big question for any of us who… I don’t try to make money from the stuff I do, it’s more for reputation and fun, but if I was trying to make money, what can I give my subscribers is the number one question.
Brent Leary: Right.
Keith Teare: And, I think it’s to do with access. I don’t think it’s content, I think it’s access.
Brent Leary: This is interesting because we had a comment from one of my buddies, Sven, we need to skip channel thinking. So, you’re basically saying it’s not about a specific channel, it’s about whatever gets to them more than it’s about the content itself at this point, it sounds like?
Keith Teare: Yeah, so you have an audience, you produce stuff that you think is a fit for that audience, and because you’re interested in it. An audience kind of has a funnel. At the very top might be people you give a free newsletter to, and that might be the biggest number of people. In your case, it might be viewers on your StreamYard. And then after that, the question is, well, do I want to make money from this? If the answer is, yes, you’ve got to have something to give them, and I think this whole tool set is a very early stage of coming together to provide answers to that.
Brent Leary: So, all of these are pieces to the puzzle?
Keith Teare: Well, if the past is anything to go by, what will happen is StreamYard, Restream, Twitter, Substack, Revue, will all converge on a common set of features and you’ll choose your favorite one, but that might be five years from now.
Brent Leary: Wow, so we’re starting to see the integration apparently, because like you said, Twitter bought Revue. StreamYard just recently got acquired by Hopin. Maybe we’re starting to see the beginning of the integration.
Keith Teare: I think of it almost like the unbundling of Zoom, which requires integration. It’s like, what would Zoom for doctors look like? What would Zoom for newsletter publishers look like? And so on and so forth, there’s a million versions of that question and Zoom isn’t going to do most of them. So then you say, okay, what are the big markets that require audio, video documents, sharing, and possibly publishing inbound feeds to select, to curate from. You could write the list of features in your head. If I wasn’t 66, I’m a many times over product guy, I would go and build it myself because I kind of know what it is, but some people are out there building it.
Brent Leary: I do a show with my buddy Paul Greenberg called the CRM Playaz. And towards the end of last year, we spoke with [Ross Mayfield] who’s heading up Zoom’s marketplace and to recruit app developers to build things on the Zoom platform. So, are you seeing the approach of some platforms like that? Are you seeing some of them looking to buy and integrate it fully into their platforms?
Keith Teare: This might be controversial, but I think that is boring and a losing move.
Brent Leary: The marketplace approach?
Keith Teare: Yeah.
Brent Leary: Okay.
Keith Teare: Look at something like Squarespace, where they’ve got all this stuff in the marketplace that you can put in your website, and if you are a vendor, your worst nightmare is Squarespace telling you that they’re going to put you in the marketplace because you know you’re going to be buried amongst hundreds of other offerings. So, it’s very attractive to go and build a standalone, dedicated thing as opposed to be a marketplace on Zoom. You might do both as a bootstrapping, but you definitely wouldn’t end with a marketplace Zoom offering because then your contained, trapped. So for me, That Was The Week, I don’t do it on medium. I’ve got thatwastheweek.com because if people find it interesting, I want them to come just to it.
Brent Leary: So one last question. Where does the ad model fit into all this? Because you can’t get away from digital ad platforms for almost anything now. That’s what Twitch is heading towards with being able to offer these kinds of platforms and integrated digital platform, so how does that fit into all the things that we talked about?
Keith Teare: I have a strong bias here, so I might not be objective, but I don’t like advertising period. I will pay HBO…. A better example would be I’ll pay Hulu for the non-ad version rather than have the ads. Obviously, there are some things where you can’t turn ads off, so I don’t, but I tend to not hang out in them if the ads become too intrusive. There is a place for the ad model. I always thought Twitter was really dumb not to say every 10th tweet is an ad and to allow the… When they used to have the Twitter stream that could go out through TweetDeck and you could embed it in your websites, I always thought, why don’t they just let that take off and say every 10th tweet is an ad? They’d be bigger than Facebook and Google on advertising.
And, it wouldn’t be too intrusive if it was every 10th tweet. So, I think there is a place for an advertising model, but when it takes over and becomes the main driver of the business I don’t like that. I’d rather pay to get out of the ads. Apple’s recent move, which I installed yesterday, iOS 14.5, when you load an app that tracks you, they throw up a thing that says this app is tracking you. Do you want it to? I think privacy is going to get in the way of the advertising model somehow. I’m reading rumors that Facebook, by the way, is developing a newsletter stroke, video, blogging competitor. So, it feels to me like services that you want to use because they’re good is where my interest lies, not advertising. So therefore, I am biased, and of course I’m wrong because most of the revenue on the internet comes from advertising or at least consumer internet.
Brent Leary: I did a little piece around the Facebook, Apple food fight that’s going on around privacy and let’s face it, Facebook, some 98% of their revenue still comes from ads.
Keith Teare: Yeah.
Brent Leary: So, this has a huge impact on them.
Keith Teare: They and Apple and Amazon and Google fight for every eyeball, which is why, in my opinion, none of them are monopolies. They’re all carving up the same market and none of them has got more than 50% of it.
Brent Leary: You’re talking about the attention economy, basically, where they’re all looking for the attention because once they get that, then they can convert. I was trying to come up with this return on attention metric because if you don’t have it, then you’re lost, but if you do have it, then you have that opportunity to convert it into something.
Keith Teare: It works the whole spectrum. I work with a company that pays me a lot of money every year and it’s one customer and I’ve got their attention and they pay me enough that I can live off it. My newsletter has 5,000 subscribers and they don’t pay me anything. So, attention as a price, is depending on how valuable you are to the people that want your attention.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.