Video Of The Week: Disqus Engagement Breakfast

Our portfolio company Disqus held a breakfast last week to talk about the subject of engagement. We kicked it off with an interview between Christina Warren and me.

The lights on stage were right in my eyes and so it was tough to look anywhere but down which makes watching this a bit tough.

The interview is about 30mins long. The Q&A, which I think is the best part, starts at 30mins and goes for another 20mins.


Comments (Archived):

  1. SubstrateUndertow

    Loved that very direct answer to the WSJ person.”paywalls are the opposite of engagement””I would make paywalls illegal”Tell us what you really think !

    1. JimHirshfield

      But then later on Tony Haile of Chartbeat pointed out that paywalls are a form of the freemium model that @fredwilson advocates. Hmm?

      1. fredwilson

        well implemented paywalls, like the ones at FT and NYT, are a freemium approach, but they are too tight in my mind, they are still optimizing for subscription revenue over audience size

        1. Matt Zagaja

          If I recall correctly NYT lets readers read any 20 articles/month, plus unlimited front page stories, plus any stories they click on from social media without any payment. What other leaks does it need to optimize for audience size?

          1. JimHirshfield


          2. JimHirshfield

            It has leaks, but with the intent to convert to paid. Not with intent to maximize eyeballs for ads or to further its position as the news leader it is.

        2. JimHirshfield

          True. And the number of free articles has been their “adjustable slider”. Most have adjusted it downward, which turns many away who will never pay.

        3. Matt Zagaja

          How much does audience size matter though if the audience is not paying? Obviously any consumer enjoys getting content for free whether its music or an article, but if you write a compelling article on healthcare reform you want Senators in Washington to read it but if an electrician in Boise. ID who never votes misses it then does it make a difference?It seems like wider distribution for wider distribution’s sake is just chasing fame without fortune or impact.EDIT: Not sure what happened, that was meant to be a reply to Jim’s post below. Not enough coffee this morning.

          1. fredwilson

            Advertising is a huge businessI believe Vice, which is a great example of the new media model, will generate $300mm to $400mm in revenues this year

        4. Cam MacRae

          As well they should.

        5. jason wright

 British newspaper recently made a subtle modification to its approach. previously it gave each reader an access allowance to a set number of free articles from the beginning of each month, around about seven free articles i think from memory, and then shut them out for the rest of the month unless they subscribed. i notice that it is now possible to read the disqus comments attached to any number of articles throughout the month, but still not be able to read the articles themselves after the allowance has been used up. what is hilarious is that although the disqus comments can now be read throughout the month the publisher has decided to cover them over with an obscuring darkening dot matrix filter to make it more difficult to read the words. The words can be read, but it’s a strain on the’s absolutely… bonkers.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            For the words, save the HTML as a file with an associated directory, use an editor to look into the file, use an editor macro to remove all the HTML and CSS markup, and get the words without any dot matrix overlay.I thought that’s what everyone did all the time?

          2. jason wright

            the golden rule is there’s always one out there, the contrarian fool not following standard behavior.i’m not doing that to read comments.

          3. sigmaalgebra

            My post was intended to be a joke, that is, a jab at how absurd some Web pages are, so absurd that a reader might have to go to the extreme technique I described just to read the darned page.But, if I want some such content a lot, then, sure, I’ve been known to do what I wrote.Still, it was intended to be a joke jabbing at some really bad Web pages.

          4. jason wright

            the irony is that the Telegraph has almost nothing worth reading. i think it’s their Freudian slip, trying to hide their embarrassment.If it were Fred’s blog i could understand people troubling themselves to save, edit, and extract, but he gets it and so no need.p.s. i was having an off day. sorry.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        So then there’s a value proposition issue at play?

  2. Robert Holtz

    This is super cool… thanks Fred!

  3. Lucky

    Fred do you think Mobli’s live view product implementation will create engagement for the masses? Will it grow their user base?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t know

  4. Steve Lerner

    Great thoughts. Google makes incremental improvements and does not appear to strive for perfection with each update. Apple is known for the hardware and specializes in the delivery mechanism. They look for leaps with perfection and that model may not their most successful path going forward.

    1. Richard

      I’m not convinced that this had been the case for iTunes.

  5. Richard

    Interviewer “Fred, Why are you trolling Apple?” Are Troll and Trolling the most overused and misused words of 2014 ?

    1. Christina Warren

      I asked it that way in part because it matched commentary I saw from others online after that (original) quote got spread around. I seriously saw a number of people I know saying “Oh, Fred is just trolling Apple now” — and so I figured I’d just ask that question outright. So that was part one.And if I’m being honest, phrasing it that way (which was intended to be a totally tongue-in-cheek way to address the recent comments), was also done in part for my own amusement. (I realize asking questions or asking them in a certain way primarily for one’s own amusement can be a bad idea for a live/recorded interview, but I could’t help it).Fred’s answer was great, I thought.

  6. Richard

    I like the direction of Freds thoughts on advertising vs engagement. The so called call to action of “engagement” of post consumption may trump the call to action “buy now” of advertising, particularly on mobile.

    1. awaldstein

      U consider reading comments engaging then?

      1. Richard

        Not exactly. I think the real value proposition for for engagement is data mining. By data mining I mean an iterative process in which you learn from your customers and your customers learn more about you

  7. kenberger

    your A to my Q (at 37:10), around health tech, puts things in perspective about making the world a better place.Gives hope as my father, and likely myself soon, really need both product examples.

  8. Richard

    My method for sharing an article of a physical newspaper.

    1. fredwilson

      see what i mean?

      1. Joel Monegro

        Looks like an opportunity for an API that turns pictures of articles into links to their web versions.

      2. Dave Pinsen

        I’ll tweet a pic of an excerpt from a hard copy article, but I’ll always include a link to the article as well.

  9. Matt A. Myers

    Hey Fred. Didn’t know about the high-frequency hearing loss. You should really look into Auditory Integration Training – – the site is geared towards more as a therapy for kids, though a lot of adults do it. It may help open up your brain to hearing those higher frequencies again. I could send you more details and info about it if you want.

    1. fredwilson

      i will check it out. what i really want are mobile phone powered hearing aids

      1. Nathan Charley

        Hey Fred. My dad is an audiologist and he was stoked a few months ago to learn about an iPhone powered hearing aid called the Resound Linx. It handles the loud dinner scenario amongst a bunch of other common hearing aid experiences by allowing you to control presets and individual settings with your phone. I think this may be similar to what you are looking for..

        1. fredwilson

          Yessssss. That’s what I want

        2. kenberger

          Bingo. My group is working on several promising client projects re BLE (bluetooth low energy). I think science has a few years to go, but this project you’ve found has some winning components (I’m under NDA on our projects).btw: I’m the one that asked the question. I was actually looking for an answer around innovation in Ad Tech, but this sort of stuff makes me want to forget most everything else, as it’s so critical to the lives of so many.

        3. sigmaalgebra

          Ah, need a smart phone with several microphones forming an acoustic phased array with beam forming and a Wiener filter so that can focus on the direction and voice of the person want to hear. How ’bout that!But, but, wait, there’s more! Have several smart phones — I mean, billions and billions of them are being made, right, and what the heck else to do with the things? So, let the several phones work together to form a physically larger acoustic array with several microphones, a common time base, and communications among the phones. Then write an optimization program for positioning the several phones! Then have a Bluetooth earphone and sit at a state dinner and listen in on all the whispering!Or record all the data from each of the microphones and do the filtering and beam forming later and, thus, listen in on each person, one at a time.To determine the geometry of the array (antenna), maybe have the phones emit little beeps to be picked up by the other phones. If the beeps were ultrasonic, then only dogs would hear them!Ah, it’s just a simple version of what the US Navy has been doing with the Aegis systems and phased array radar for decades. Likely also the USAF.FINALLY, finally, a first, for the first time, a use for smart phones other than for plumbers, cab drivers, electricians, grass mowers, real estate agents, etc.!

      2. Matt A. Myers

        They used to have these checklists on the AIT website, but here’s a mirror:Behaviour checklist for adults –…Behaviour checklist as child / for children –…These are pre-care questionnaires and if you check off many of them then might be good idea to do an auditory assessment. Adults will develop a wide range of coping mechanisms to counteract some of these behaviours, so they may not show up in a person exactly how described.

  10. Salt Shaker

    1) It’s quite interesting that the AT&T/DirecTV deal is conditional on a NFL Sunday Ticket renewal. It speaks to the strength of ‘live’ sports and the strength of the NFL in particular, the league’s continual escalating rights fees notwithstanding. DirecTV is a shell of itself w/ out the NFL, while it must be pretty frightening for a biz to be so beholden to a single supplier.2) Legacy publishers are encumbered w/ legacy costs and legacy thinking. While the NYT’s conducted a refreshingly candid internal assessment of its editorial, organizational and cultural DNA, with an eye towards being more digitally focused, the truth of the matter is the NYT’s price/value relationship is no longer what it was, particularly in a time constrained world where free, quality content is avail in abundance.

  11. jason wright

    what time of the morning did the exchange begin?

    1. fredwilson

      Too early. I arrived at 8:30am

  12. Aaron Klein

    Maybe next time, Disqus could spring for these things called lapel mics, too.

    1. LE

      I also noticed the sound setup as well. But I actually got “lit” the minute Fred mentioned the lights in his eyes.Things like that (lack of attention to detail and cluelessness) are a pet peeve of mine.You know all those stories about how Steve Jobs dressed people down and went ballistic? I wonder how many of those things were for simple lack of attention to detail in one’s primary job?Back in the day of course dressing down happened quite often. If you didn’t think you got yelled at (by parents, employers what not). You were expected to pay attention and think. Or suffer the consequences.I was at a college graduation in upstate NY a week ago and the weather was on and off rainy. I was amazed that the college didn’t erect some kind of tent over the seating and/or tents over the walkways to prevent people from getting wet. Or at least provide some umbrellas (they gave people plastic bags but not rain ponchos like they have at Disney for weather situations). And this is for something that happens every single year. Not like it’s a 1 off “we learned our lesson” type event. Plus they scheduled the event for 8:45 am and wanted you to “allow two hours for seating” because of crowds. Do the math and see if you want to get up that early. Makes no sense.

  13. LE

    …maybe a month or two later the CIO of AOL called the CEO of Mongo kind of in a panic and said “I need a license and support, you know, immediately. I have 50 of your servers in production all over the world and there is no support for it!” and that’s the kind of call you want to get.Curious if the Mongo/AOL story really went down like that or if that was a dramatization.Not that Mongo wouldn’t be fair (whatever that is) but seems that telegraphing such immediate need is a good way to make sure you pay more than you should. List pricing is negotiated downward all the time for competitive reasons. It’s also common to have a high list price bracket in business and then kick someone to another bracket to close a deal. If they don’t negotiate you go with the higher bracket (in some but not all cases of course).Here is what I see for pricing on the Mongo site today, curious if this existed back at the time of the AOL call:…My personal feeling is that I’m not a fan of this type of display of such detailed pricing as it doesn’t allow an organization to maximize revenue and in fact may either scare off some customers and/or leave money on the table with others (there are always ways to adjust t&c to be able to provide more value to a particular customer or charge a cheaper price to another customer w/o jeopardizing business relationships. Also by publishing prices (in this manner I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any mention of pricing) you may prevent engagement with a salesperson which might be needed in order to close a deal.Separately I’m not seeing the time frame that these subscriptions refer to. (Monthly? Yearly? 3yr? etc. did I miss something?)

    1. fredwilson

      That’s how I heard it. But I wasn’t on the call

  14. Twain Twain

    Great interview, thanks.

  15. William Mougayar

    Good overall interview. Easy to listen to.”Why do I blog everyday? Because people get used to coming to my blog everyday.”

  16. paramendra

    I think you might be right about Apple. It might lose its status as one of the top three companies. The iPhone and the iPad can be milked only so much, and I don’t think anything else on the horizon. But the bolder statement is you saying you don’t know who one of the three will be, besides Google, and Facebook (I am not sure Facebook will be in the top three). To say one of the top three in 2020 might not even have been born yet is “accurate.” The top companies of today are themselves proof that six years are an era in technology. I mean no disrespect but I don’t think any of your current portfolio companies stand a chance to hit the top three, although my data is old, I don’t have a good knowledge of your investments in the past two years.

  17. Brad Lindenberg

    Brilliant Fred. You are a genius!

  18. Twain Twain

    fredwilson — re your insights on Apple not being as Cloud-progressive as Google, FB and others, Google “running the table” and also the AI part…Have you read Ray Kurzweil’s ideas for us to supplement our brainpower via nanobots in our braincells, tapping into the Cloud that is Google?Google wants to tap your brain:*…There’s also his new TED talk where he believes that somehow quality will arise of its own free will from quantity:*…In other words, Google believes that as long as it has volumes and volumes of data then its AI brain will somehow be able to make sense of and qualify that data.There are scientists and technologists I know who challenge this idea. I am one of them.

    1. Twain Twain

      Given that Michaelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ accompanies that article about Google wanting to be a sort of cloud god that confers intelligence to us (Adam) and the discussions over diversity, it may be timely to ask whether Google’s ethics board for governing its AI initiatives is diverse:*…Yes and Google has acquired up to 50% of the world’s AI knowhow, according to sources:*

  19. fredwilson

    None are in the market yet