5by5 | The Critical Path #16: The Existence Proof

Horace interviews Dan Benjamin on the motivation, basis of competition and trajectory of the 5by5 network. By studying where podcasting came from and where it’s going we provide proof of existence of disruption in “big media”.

via 5by5 | The Critical Path #16: The Existence Proof.

Turning the tables in more ways than one.

  • Anonymous

    I think you’ve finally nailed the logo! I like the font and I like the gradient that gives it a little texture.

    • Intjester

      I don’t know. I find it ironic that it is so symmetric. Also too KOA campground-like for my taste. 

      • I also much prefer the green no-logo logo.    I know that innovation is useful, but perhaps you could wait a year in between logo innovations.  Give your market (us) time to adjust before you introduce disruption 🙂

      • jawbroken

        I think it’s been said before that Horace views the designs as similar to a “Google doodle”, though hopefully not in the patent-infringing sense.

  • Steve Gorton

    Revert back to the no-logo logo, please.
    This one is too V for Vendetta  (inverted, granted)

  • Anonymous

    Like the way that the logo continues the line of the A in Asymco. The two colors on top of white remind me subtly of the stack charts. The shape recalls graphs and that things go up and things go down. The graphic could be used as the first letter in Asymco in your other branding. I think most people would get that it’s an “A”. Stands out well in my Twitter stream which the other did not. Oddly, I get the new avatar in my timeline but if I do a search on “asymco” I still see the old avatar.

  • Anonymous


    I like where I think you are going with the idea of “How is television going to be disrupted?”.  I do not know the answer (and I recognize you are tired of hearing about why it won’t happen) but let me suggest another reason why the industry hasn’t changed and, therefore, what you will have to think about how it can be overcome for disruption to occur:

    People don’t want “democratic” content. It is in our DNA to like things that other people like (“socialized content”?) and this is why content aggregators/large distributors will not be disrupted.

    This goes against everything people (like Hoon) want to believe, but look at the facts. Start with the work of Art De Vany and music. The paper is below, but is summarized in Taleb’s Black Swan:

    “It is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love
    with works of art only for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they
    belong to a community.” (p31)

    This is all part of the thinking in complex adaptive systems. Even better paper:

    Let me make an even more outrageous suggestion: the current disruption in music and publishing will only be temporary. The long tail of “democratization” of content has not happened. Content is still king. As you note, “Itunes is now a star system.”

    The disruption in the newspaper and music industries occured in the distribution channel because of unique issues (or stupidity). Newspapers are now recognizing the error of their way and are all going to charge for content. The music album was killed by piracy, and the genie is out of the bottle. The old model of music distribution is dead, so the money is now in live entertainment, where the old “dinosaurs” dominate. The podcast segment will have a few stars (which will make all the money) and a long tail of 12 year olds.

    Here is a challenge for you to answer re TV: the content providers have learned the lesson and are not going to let piracy, free content or a new distribution method break their hold on what people want: things that other people want.

    • Hoon Lee

      Aren’t content aggregators and large distributors already being disrupted? 

      The pre-Napster oligarchy of distribution is a shadow of its former self. I imagine as bandwidth increases more and more film distribution companies will find themselves in crisis as well. The fact that is profitable implies to me that disruption of the television space may be coming sooner than anyone thinks. 

      Newspapers may charge for content but who will buy when the disruption caused by bloggers, live aggregate data from social media channels and other sources are available free, more immediately and more conveniently?

      And to be clear – I actually feel very strongly that part of art’s power is its ability to span tastes. That is, art at its height (for me personally) can be either a hundred million unique voices all singing their own song or those same voices all singing one song. What I’m most concerned with is that there are more obstacles than ready solutions to creating lots and lots of varied work that can be easily brought to (and consumed by) the public. The really good stuff happens after a lot of churn.

    • Hoon Lee

      And thank you for the links. As I mentioned in last week’s podcast, this is a fairly new train of thought for me so all input and resources are appreciated.

  • I’d be in favour of keeping the Red and Orange parts of the logo and dropping the text ‘ASYMCO’ – they don’t seem to work together.

  • Les S

    To whit:
    “Beyond disaggregation, personalization is ultimately the most powerful consumer value of digital media. My mother’s TV experience was to walk over to her TV set and turn a dial to select among three channels to satisfy her individuality. But in the next generation, no two people will receive the same recommendations from the millions of content choices available.”

    • Les S

      PS: My 2 cents on a good interviewer . . . must be a student of the subject. The student listens, learns and challenges without being confrontational. I think the one of the best examples of a great interviewer (one where I learned a lot about the subject of the interview rather than the interviewer) would be Bill Moyers. Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell ( is one of my favorites.

  • Andrew

    I loved the story about feeding your 6-year old YouTube videos through the iPad and AppleTV.

    I flashed back to Steve Jobs’ intro of the iPad … sitting in his comfy chair. 

    Move to a couch, set in front of the TV, and add your family ….


  • Anonymous

    Podcasting is a great topic for you to study because it’s so early in its history. You can get ion the ground floor when the pioneers are exploring the new medium, learning about the possibilities, and figuring out how to take it to the next level. It’s like studying movies when David Wark Griffith set up the Biograph in New York..

    I don’t think podcasting will be much affected by Apple’s move into TV in 2012. That’s a related but different part of the revolution. I think its pretty clear that Apple is focused on disintermediating. They want to displace the cable/satellite power-holders in favor of direct-to-internet distribution (a.k.a, themselves), but they prefer to work with the conventional “Big Content” sources. I’m expecting that all of that action will occur safely over the podcasters’ heads. There ought to be indirect consequences that will aid podcasting.

    Dan and his fellow podcasters are much more subversive — and I think more interesting. Dan wants to displace both the sources of content and the conventional distributors. As such, poscasters are even further “under the radar”. 

    You talked a bit about the usage of video in podcasting.  I know that Dan played with video, but abandoned it. I want to toss out a couple of examples of video podcasting.

    I have one “bad” example and one “good” example. The “bad” example illustrates what can happen when someone tries to jump into video before the podcaster has any concept of how to use video in a disruptive/game-changing way. The “good” example is a great role model to study…

    The “bad” example: One danger is that the podcaster only copies the familiar forms from Big Content and moves it to the internet. But that doesn’t get us anywhere. 

    Very recently another outstanding 5by5 presenter, John Gruber, was a guest on a new video podcast called “On the Verge”( I had heard of their site but had never tuned into their podcast. So, I assumed it was another tech podcast, of a similar ilk to Twit, 5by5, or some of the sites that try harder to be “cool”.

    What I saw was stunning. It reminded me strongly of an old Scorsese/deNiro movie, “The King of Comedy” ( The title character “Rupert Pupkin” is an ambitious but no-talent aspiring comic. Unfortunately, he had spent way too much time watching late night TV. His ambition had taken the form of redefining “success” only in the terms defined by the late night talk show idiom. He obsessively saw himself as a guest host of the “Tonight” show. That’s what I saw when I was expecting to see Gruber on the “Verge”. 

    Every single thing they did was copied from the mannerisms, cliches, and affectations from the “Tonight” show and its many variants and grafted onto the internet. Even the studio audience had learned its role and the director had learned how to photograph the stage and the studio audience so that it looks undistinguishable from what you see on OTA TV. Ugh!

    I’m sure the “On the Verge” staff are proud of their accomplishments, but what I saw was a man who is suffering from an advanced case of Pupkin’s Disease. It was horrifying.

    Unfortunately, the content of his interview with Gruber reinforced my first impression. 

    What’s alarming is that the host of this thing, Joshua Topolsky, is actually in the same profession as Gruber: he’s a tech writer! But the man I saw covets the role of the ignorant but judgmental “celebrity” host. The celebrity host helps the unwashed masses pigeonhole this “outsider” into a known stereotype that they could “understand”. 

    This is video podcasting spun out of control. The worst one I’ve ever seen. 

    OK, now for a very positive example. This also involves one of the 5by5 presenters. 

    At the time the original iPad came out, the Fox tech newsman Clayton Morris hosted a live roundtable discussion. Nearly all of the panelists were excellent reporters/commentators, plus one C-Net babe who was thoughtfully seated right in front. The seating arrangement was perfect for a video podcast.

    She didn’t say much, but when the topic of touch-typing on the iPad came up, she volunteered the opinion that no one could possibly touch-type at 50 wpm on an iPad. At that moment, Mr. Ihnatko (who was the only panelist who had a loaner iPad for the week prior to release) got up, walked up to her, and slammed a bill out of his wallet in front of her. He then walked back to his iPad and began typing rapidly, accurately, and for a long enough time until she was shouted down by the other panelists or conceded defeat. Mr.Ihnatko then walked back to the table, scooped up his winnings, and resumed his seat.

    Wow! Andy had answered the question visually: *He performed the answer.*

    That’s the key: His commentary was inherently visual. He didn’t need to say a word. But in the process he not only addressed the original question but also made a powerful comment on the state of garden-variety tech commentary. 

    In addition to the cost and technical obstacles to video podcasting, there’s also the simple question of talent. Andy happens to be one of those rare people who is both a talented writer and also a talented performer. The two don’t necessarily go together. 

    Think of what happened: If you replay that little snippet in slow motion, you’ll realize that he quickly figured out that he could respond by adapting a stereotypical scene out of an old B-movie (e.g., a western) that involves a challenge in the form of a bet. In real time, he performed the scene without a script or a rehearsal in front of the live audience. 

    Boy, he is good.

    You can see the contrast with Pupkin’s Disease. “The Verge” is a talk show, just like the ones that Dan hosts. But surrounding the conversation with affectations borrowed from “The Tonight Show” does nothing to reinforce/express its content — except that it unintentionally reveals the host’s biases. 

    You just can’t throw money at a podcast to make it better.

    Yeah, I think Dan made the correct call in backing off from video. I think its best for podcasting to establish a foothold in the world of (low-cost) audio and postpone plans for video until the someone can formulate a strategy that would make it worth the cost. Taking my “good” example, audiences would need to learn to look forward to *what Andy does*, not just *what he says*. It will take a while, but podcasting is off to a great start.

    • The medium is the message. Bloggers who mimic TV shows should consider whether their success in writing online is mimicry of printed works.

  • I’d like to invite readers to read my response to this podcast over on my website.  It’s my first “multimedia blog-reply” with videos, graphics, color and even bold and italic!

    I talk about balancing words with visualizations.  I think you’ll enjoy it!


  • I’d like to invite readers to read my response to this podcast over on my website.  It’s my first “multimedia blog-reply” with videos, graphics, color and even bold and italic!

    I talk about balancing words with visualizations.  I think you’ll enjoy it!