Tuesday, February 26, 2002

A Dressed up, and Not Too Depressed New Media

"I used to wear a suit to stand out," joked JPMorganChase's Tim Noble, "but now, everyone's dressing up." The shabby dress of new media webheads and others in the Internet tech scene of years past is nearly a faint memory today. It was quite apparent that the people and attitudes at this year's New York New Media Association (NYNMA) panel "State of New York New Media 2002" on Tuesday, February 26th have changed. The slouched shoulders and jeans and t-shirts have been replaced by snazzy garb on attentive and upright professionals who networked with such panache even Peggy Post would be proud.

This year's annual panel was held in the Fashion Institute of Technology's Haft Auditorium, where budding fashionistas lined the street as the new spiffy new media crowd converged. Overall, the speakers, MessageMachines founder and chairman Christopher Herot, Apax Partners, Inc. chairman Alan J. Patricof, Madstone Films co-founder and co-CEO Charles B. Seelig, Jr. and New York City Partnership & Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Kathryn Wylde were reflective on what would be the next big thing for New York's technology community. There were some jabs at the awfulness of last year and some predictions, all of which left the audience in more of a bewildered state than when they arrived.

The Wall Street Journal Online deputy managing editor Dave Kansas queried what each panelist thought was the next wave for NYC. Their answers were as diverse as the city itself. Herot felt that we are just discovering what new media means and that today it is really just taking old media into new forms. His broad-stroke analysis included the wireless, iTV and distance learning fields. Patricof was focused largely on wireless but stated we still need to figure out the economic models. "Content is King," was Seelig's overall attitude towards all development. He finds wireless and the Internet simply as distribution models with not a lot of money in them. "What matters is the content. Audiences don't care if a film is shown digitally, they want a good story." The next big thing would be a service that's useful for people. Chiming in on the life sciences and bio-buzz that's been going on, Wylde cited bio-security, biogenetics and bioengineering as areas with a lot of interest and activity in New York City. From her role with the government, she also pointed out the level of activity going on with rebuilding lower Manhattan and the efforts to keep it a 24/7 community.

Questions from the audience ranged from programmer Greg Elin's agitated inquiry on the future of digital filmmaking to idealab!'s vice chairman Howard Morgan's query on wireless development to Masur & Associates' Steve Masur's question on electronic and interactive gaming's future.

Afterwards informal networking ensued between old-timers like SkyForge Solutions' Andrew Weinrich, Nicole Berlyn, Deb Schultz and Lori Schwab. I chatted briefly with Consulate General of Finland Deputy Consul General Jari Sinkari and The Grimaldi Group president Vincent Grimaldi. Morrison & Foerster attorney John Delaney and attorney Steve Filler were catching up with other new media digerati like EZCD's Jeremy Kagan, Unplugged Games president and founder Eric Goldberg, Deloitte & Touche senior marketing manager and former NYNMA Education Programs director Ellen Auwarter. Site59.com's Jon Perkel told me sales were at a record high. WWWAC's new president Scott Bowling and Scott Hall came over to chat. Technology & Marketing Ventures Inc. CEO June Klein and Intelligent Biometric Solutions International COO Arthur McKinley were exchanged cards and Edgar Online CEO Susan Strausberg and Grove Street Capital president Elaine Gilde were also among the Silicon Alley scenesters who came to hear the predictions. UPOC's co-founder & CEO Gordon Gould, Roz Goldfarb Associates' Jessica Goldfarb and Twin Towers Fund CTO Howard Greenstein were mingling and catching up with friends. Robert Levitan told me his good news of his upcoming trip to China where he will be working with Pearson and the Chinese government to start a new media business in China (starting with China TV and moving into books and the Internet-sound familiar?!)

Afterwards, a small clan gathered around NYNMA executive director Alice O'Rourke, who was decked out as usual, Dawn Barber and NYNMA's Brian Rosenberg to descend on Patsy's for some good ol' NYC-style pizza!