Mark Cuban still won’t admit he was wrong

In what has to be one of the most often-quoted comments about an Internet company, billionaire basketball-team owner Mark Cuban said in 2006 that “only a moron would buy YouTube.” Within a matter of months, of course, Google paid $1.65-billion for the company that Mark said would undoubtedly be “sued into oblivion.” And was YouTube sued into oblivion? No. So by my count, that means our billionaire media analyst has been wrong at least twice on the topic of YouTube.

So has the Dancing With The Stars hoofer ever admitted that he was wrong? Not on your life. In fact, he’s now telling Silicon Alley Insider that YouTube has only become a success because it started following his advice, which was to focus on legitimate content that could be monetized through advertising. But even in his email to Nicholas Carlson he gets YouTube and the true nature of its business wrong: he says that the user-generated content side of the company is probably “losing its ass” and that “If they get out of the UGC business, they actually would be profitable.”

As usual, Mark misses the point: the user-generated content — the video clips of startled hamsters and surprised panda bears and Charlie biting his brother’s finger — are exactly what draw the audiences that generate the pageviews that YouTube monetizes through ads on other content. As YouTube has described in a somewhat defensive post on its blog, the business is doing quite well now, thank you very much, despite repeated claims by people like Cuban that bandwidth costs and/or lawsuits would bankrupt the company. Don’t quit your day job, Mark.

Was the NYT wrong to keep quiet? Yes

It’s been more than a week since New York Times reporter David Rohde escaped from his captors in Pakistan, so maybe now is a good time to try and look dispassionately at the massive coverup that prevented news of his kidnapping from being reported for more than six months — a coverup that included not just 40 or so mainstream media outlets but Wikipedia as well, with the personal help of founder Jimmy Wales. Raising such ethical issues seemed somewhat crass in the days following his miraculous escape (although that didn’t stop some observers, including Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, from being early critics of the coverup). But those issues deserve to be talked about in more detail.

For the record, I don’t know David Rohde. From all accounts, he is a wonderful friend and colleague, not to mention an excellent reporter who has a great deal of experience working in troubled areas. All of which is — I would argue — completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, namely whether the New York Times and its senior management were right to conceal evidence of his kidnapping, and whether the editors at dozens of other outlets were right to go along with this plan.

I would argue that they were not, and that if anything the coverup has made things harder not just for future kidnapping victims such as Rohde, but for newspapers and other mainstream media outlets as a whole.

(Please read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab blog)