Monday, May 7, 2007
Interview with Josh Harris, CEO, Operator11
Josh Harris is CEO of Operator 11 Exchange (www.operator11.com), a brand new, Hollywood-based company which has just started to develop an Internet-based, television studio and online web site. Harris is best known as the founder of Pseudo.com, the New York-based, dot-com era Internet TV broadcaster. Harris was also the founder of Jupiter Communications, the high tech market research company. Harris recently set up a full studio at a Hollywood soundstage for his firm, and began a very, very early alpha of the firm's web site. He is now in the midst of raising capital for build out of the company. Harris spoke with Ben Kuo about his new venture.
What is Operator 11 all about?
Josh Harris: We have a studio, and essentially our premise is we are an Internet television network. In our present rendition, we are more specifically, an Internet television station. We are not so different from a radio or TV station, except we are using the Internet and the economics are better. We're still a startup, and are not fully built out yet.
The fundamental difference from a traditional TV station, for arguments sake, is that we have one studio that has 10 outs--10 operator workstations, where each produces a product. Our studio is the anchor desk, but most of the product is made by the audience. What we do is synthesize the signals they produce, and we package their programming.
When you say production, what do you mean?
Josh Harris: It's like a traditional TV show--we add an opening jingle, a closing jingle, interstitials, and lower thirds--for example when you see this is so-and-so from Miami, and put up a logo. We did that at Pseudo, and at this company our engineering team is figuring out how to do this for netcasting using modern day technology. The shows are studio designed and produced.
Talk a little bit about your studio, I understand you have a full studio there in Hollywood?
Josh Harris: It's a full on studio. I am comfortable what we have is a state-of-the-art netcasting environment. It's built on a sound stage, and it works. However, we are still a month away from our interface working properly--it's a mess right now and we know it. Our strategy is guerilla startup warfare mode, we have started traffic just to get the feedback loop going. I like to say the the core is like Ugly Betty right now.
What have you been up to since Pseudo?
Josh Harris: The reason I laid off it for five years, is the last thing I did out of Manhattan was I wired my loft and lived in public for six months. That cracked me. I had an online nervous breakdown--it drove me crazy. I had to spend 4 years to recover. It's one of those things where I took a break, and am now back at it.
When do you think your site will start ramping up?
Josh Harris: The next level is in about 30 days, when we think the interface will be correct, and we can get to production. I would say in fall, production will be king, not development. The presumption is that we have no capital problems--we're now looking for our next round of capital and talking with venture capitalists.
Is your company mostly built on people or automation?Josh Harris: Right now it's mostly people. Some of the problems we've run into--which are systemic to the world, not us--is that in best case, you need a webcam, headset and microphone to participate, which is not common. Some people have them, but they're not actively used--you need to jack into your machine. Second, in order to do this reasonably well, you need to upload inventory into your library. If you go to StickAm, it's just heads in a dorm room, there's nothing there to talk about except people trying to pick each other up--there's no production value. The problem is to get the production value. In a funny sort of way, this is the video version of MySpace. MySpace doesn't work unless people start putting their life into their page. People aren't used to doing that. The thing that is going to happen, when that happens, is that you can start dropping advertising into video. That's much more powerful, in the same way that TV is more powerful than print. When that starts occurring, and agencies work it all out, the economics of production value on the net will not be insignificant.
In my opinion, the best production and online experiences are games where people can communicate. It's sort of like massive multiplayer social networking. We haven't written up the levels to Opeartor11 yet, but the idea is you get higher level powers in Operator11 if your show is popular, so maybe a level 5 operator gets more time per show, can do multiple shows, and gain certain privileges and powers. The difference between this and a gaming environment is this is more consumer. The logical people to pick up on what we're doing is the blogging community, where we're enhancing their ability to communicate with their audience.