Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Seagate likes it easy, cheap and free

May 21, 2008

Seagate Technology CEO Bill WatkinsSeagate Chief Executive Bill Watkins has a reason to like easy, free ways to consume information on the Internet.

After all, his company is the world’s largest computer disk-drive maker, something that comes in handy for all the storage space required to back up online audio and video.

Here’s Watkins’s reasoning, which he gave us at the Reuters Technology, Media and Telecommunications Summit on Wednesday:

People will watch lousy content if it’s easy and cheap and free… . If you think about TV back in the ’50s … Hollywood and all those guys, they said “no way we’re going to let our actors get on TV.” … New York stage did the same thing. Radio did the same thing. So what did TV do? They invented their own content. It was the farm report, the Howdy-Doody show. And all of a sudden, people started watching it because it was easy and free. And then the advertising dollars started following TV. And so what happened? Everyone started having to put their content on TV. Radio had to give up. … You’re watching the same thing happening here on the Internet. And if people got nothing to do with their time, they’ll sit there and watch commercials. I mean, people watch commercials on the Internet and then they share them with friends. But that’s a great thing for us.

They may be empty calories, but they sure do fill up the bottom line.

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