Thursday, October 9, 2008

GM CEO Takes Message To YouTube

Let’s annoy you by understating it and call these “uncertain” economic times. While it’s unclear what a tumultuous economy means for online business—after all, there was Internet in the Great Depression—old standby General Motors saw its stock drop the lowest it’s been in half a century.

What will also be historic to watch is how twenty-something cub Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg handles what appears to be economic Armageddon (as Jim Cramer prognosticated a year ago in his famous meltdown—the same guy telling you take your money out of the market now). Even more historic and interesting will be to compare how Zuckerberg handles it to how GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner does.

Early developments are pretty telling. Wagoner has taken his case to YouTube. In a two minute video, he spoke of innovation and new, more economically friendly cars down the pipe. He talked about gas prices and fuel economy and asked the YouTube audience for thoughtful commentary.

After 8,000 or so views there has been no commentary, but that’s beside the point. Wagoner’s video is kinda Iacocca-ish, which is probably what he was going for.

What sort of guidance can we expect from his quarter-life dotcom hotshot counterpoint? You might call it a cautious approach. Zuckerberg is set on nailing down a business model within the next three years.

Maybe that’s when his student loans come due?

In an interview for a German news site, Zuckerberg explains revenue for Facebook isn’t as important as growth at the moment:

“I don't think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did. But on both sites people find information valuable. I'm pretty sure that we will find an analogous business model. But we are experimenting already. One group is very focused on targeting; another part is focused on social recommendation from your friends. In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today.”

Maybe Microsoft would like to take that quarter-billion it plunked down and put it toward buying up a failing bank. That seems to be a pretty popular move right now.

It’s still hard to believe Zuckerberg once blew off billion-dollar negotiations with Yahoo—pre-Microsoft bid and pre-tanking-stock Yahoo. Honestly, offer me a billion dollars for something. Anything. I’ll take it.

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