Mike Arrington stars in The Ugly American

It’s been awhile since we had a good “bitchmeme” flare up on Techmeme, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose. In this case, it’s a cross-cultural, multi-continent event involving Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, LeWeb organizer (and TechCrunch partner) Loic LeMeur of Seesmic, and a cast of thousands — or possibly hundreds. The main attraction was apparently a panel discussion at LeWeb in which Mike talked about how all most of the successful Web companies are located in Silicon Valley because they want to win at all costs, while Europeans like to take long lunches and relax (the fun starts at about 17:00). The comment thread on Mike’s post alone is worth the price of admission. Loic LeMeur’s somewhat defensive response is here.

Update: In round two of this match, Mike has responded to Loic’s poll on whether he should be allowed back to LeWeb, calling it “censorship,” and Loic has responded to Mike’s response, saying that he thought of him as a friend “until now,” because Mike threatened not to send anyone to LeWeb next year, and posted a comment about starting his own European conference.

Not surprisingly, Mike is accused of being a stereotypical “ugly American,” who thinks that only American companies can succeed, and that all Europeans are lazy. He in turn points out that he never said Europeans were lazy, only that they have a cultural approach to business that isn’t as hard-nosed as the typical American entrepreneurial approach — and that while there are plenty of entrepreneurial European companies (Skype, etc.), they tend to either move to the U.S. so they can be part of that culture or get acquired by American companies. Like many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in what Mike says, which is probably why it generates such an emotional response. It’s also possible that Mike likes to get attention 🙂

As someone who has spent the majority of my life in Canada (although I was born in Germany and have visited Europe many times), I can’t claim any kind of real expertise in this debate. In my experience, however, American companies do tend to be more aggressive, and U.S. entrepreneurs tend to be more driven than those from other countries, including Canada — which, as many people know, is an odd sort of mix of British, French and American influences (we’re like the UN up here). But that aggression and drive can also produce companies that flame out spectacularly, and/or wind up pushing the envelope of the law. For what it’s worth, I am also on record as favouring long lunches, so I guess I am a little European in spirit.


Some thoughts from my friend Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses.

White House video: what took so long?

So the soon-to-be new U.S. president, Barack Obama, is reportedly going to videotape regular addresses to the American people and upload them to YouTube, as well as to his new Change.gov social-media portal. All I could think of when I saw the headline from the Washington Post is “What the heck took so long?” It’s not like YouTube just appeared yesterday. It’s become a primary video source for millions of people, particularly young people — and heck, even the Queen has a royal channel with videos that people can watch about the British royal family. And she’s not the only Queen on YouTube (I’m not counting Chris Crocker). Queen Rania of Jordan also has a channel, and she uploads inspirational video messages, including the one I’ve embedded here (she’s also extremely beautiful, which I think is a big plus for a queen). It says a lot about George Bush and his presidency that he couldn’t be bothered to even use a free commuications tool.

What can Fred teach us about video?

According to at least one account, the big star of the NewTeeVee Live conference — put on by the gang at GigaOm — wasn’t the CEO of Hulu, or the head of Netflix, or even alterna-star Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing. It was 15-year-old video artist Lucas Cruikshank, otherwise known simply as “Fred.” Lucas was a bored teen somewhere in Nebraska when he decided to parody some of the self-obsessed video bloggers on YouTube and came up with the persona of Fred, a hyperactive pre-teen who speaks in an incredibly annoying, squeaky voice. He is a bona fide YouTube superstar.

While musicians and comedians with years of training and talent are desperately trying to get more views for their videos on YouTube, the phenomenon known as Fred records a video of himself leaning into the camera and making faces while sounding like one of the Chipmunks and gets more than a million views. The video I’ve embedded here has more than 11 million, and that’s after less than four months. His latest video has only been up for a day — a single day — and already has more than 400,000 views, and the one before that (two weeks old) has 2 million. His is the most subscribed channel on YouTube and has more than 125 million views in total. Next up: product placement and celebrity cameos.

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YouTube: The hits just keep on coming

Just yesterday, it was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that signed a deal with YouTube, allowing the video site to run full-length versions of movies (although the initial selection was somewhat less than stellar). Today, the site announced a deal with Freemantle Productions, the creators of the American Idol reality-show franchise, that will see the production company create a channel for all of its existing shows, but also a new channel for exclusive content that it will create specifically for YouTube.

Soon, YouTube will be carrying ad-supported TV shows from CBS, clips from LionsGate movies with pre-rolls and post-rolls, full-length movies from MGM and exclusive content from one of the world’s leading reality-show producers. Not bad for a site that started with video clips of funny cats and skateboard pratfalls, and is still considered by some to be a kind of trailer-park ghetto of video (yes, Mark Cuban, we’re looking at you). With Hulu.com adding plenty of mainstream content too, the competition in online video definitely seems to be heating up.

YouTube to get MGM’s also-rans

According to the New York Times, the rumours about YouTube adding full-length movies are about to come true — sort of. The paper says that MGM will announce a deal with the video site on Monday to run some full TV shows and also some movies, with ads appearing alongside them. But the content isn’t really much to write home about:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios will kick off the partnership by posting episodes of its decade-old “American Gladiators” program to YouTube, along with full-length action films like “Bulletproof Monk” and “The Magnificent Seven” and clips from popular movies like “Legally Blonde.”

Wow — the chance to watch old episodes of American Gladiators and Bulletproof Monk. Hold me back.

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