Where Hollywood Sees Art, Silicon Valley Sees ‘Bits & Bytes'; Who’s Winning?

Studios still play a critical role in the media ecosystem, just not as large and domineering a position as in the past, AllThingsD's Kara Swisher tells TheWrap's Sharon Waxman at TheGrill

Last Updated: October 2, 2012 @ 1:47 PM

Where Hollywood sees art, Silicon Valley sees bits, bytes and data.

Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief and CEO of TheWrap, sparred with AllThingsD editor Kara Swisher at TheGrill conference Tuesday morning, over how Hollywood's former cash cow can help strike a balance with the platforms on which their content is viewed. 

"[Hollywood types] suspect that Silicon Valley gives a lot of lip service to content, but they're just lying, they don't really," Waxman (below) said.

Jonathan AlcornSwisher quickly countered that what Hollywood sees as antagonism is really apathy.

"Everything is data to most companies in Silicon Valley," the longtime tech writer said. "You imagine that they care, and that's the issue."

Swisher admitted that studios still play a critical role in the media ecosystem, just not as large and domineering a position as in the past.

Also read: Thanks to Twitter, Hollywood and Silicon Valley Are Finally Working Together

"You're not lost, you're just not the most important part of the puzzle," Swisher said of  Hollywood. "You're just part of the puzzle."

Waxman said that while homemade YouTube videos and friends' Facebook posts may satisfy the needs of some for entertainment, the tech platforms that distribute content still need studios' high-quality television and movies to attract users' clicks.

"There has to be a business model that underpins that kind of content," Waxman said to an audience at the London West Hollywood Hotel. "To Silicon Valley, content is bits and bytes. To people in this room, I'd submit that content is something very different." 

Part of that business model, Swisher said, is still more downsizing at formerly behemoth media companies, nixing from their budgets what she described as frivolous spending by "mid-level" executives.

"It doesn't need all these people," she said of Hollywood. "It doesn't need some mid-level NBC executive that takes town cars everywhere."

Swisher also said that the platforms Silicon Valley companies are developing will, with time, give more power to the content creator — much like Amazon allows writers to self-publish and sell e-books and Apple's iTunes accepts submissions from musicians and podcasters.

And, she added, we have to broaden the idea of what entertainment is. It's not just movies anymore, Instagram, games and Facebook, as well.

And thanks to the broad number of choices available for bringing content to consumers, it is  the consumers, she said, are taking control of the content situation — and not giving it back. Hollywood and the tech companies are no longer in charge.

"You destroyed newspapers, not Silicon Valley," she said.


But for one member of the audience, the rise of tech platforms only cheapened what he previously created.

"I think this whole word 'content' is what really kills me. Content provider? Is Joyce Carol Oates a content provider?" he said of the prolific author during the Q&A session.

"What do you call yourself?" Swisher asked.

"I used to be a writer," he said.