Leo LaPorte is a Startup

by francine Hardaway on July 28, 2011

Driving up the 101 from Mountain View to Half Moon Bay in the late afternoon is a frustrating experience. The traffic is unconscionable, and it is exacerbated by the big trucks and the construction along the shoulders (which has been going on for as long as I have been coming to California.) But yesterday I laughed almost the entire way, amused and enlightened at the same time by Leo laPorte trying to get "This Week in Google" on the air. It was a product launch with all the snafus that inevitably happen when you come out of beta and your servers get hammered by more visitors than you expected. Only TWIT is not software, it's broadcasting. More accurately, it is narrowcasting — a 24 hour streaming tech news network aimed at a rag-tag assemblage of followers from 10 to 100.

You may not think of Leo la Porte, long time radio "Tech Guy" as a startup entrepreneur. After all, he has been in radio since he discovered it at Yale and dropped out of school for it. But when you are the on-air talent in radio, or even in TV, you work for somebody. Until you are Oprah and decide to start your own network.

Leo is having his Oprah moment. With one child in college and one in high school, he made his big move about five or six years ago to become independent, realizing his dream of a network devoted entirely to geek news and views. The success of the original TWiT (This Week in Tech) podcast network led to video podcasts, and Leo outgrew his original studio in a cottage of Petaluma.

For the past six months he has been building out a larger studio and last weekend he finally moved the entire operation out of the TWIT cottage into the new facility. And yesterday he tried to do his first program from the new studio with all the guests remotely streaming in. It was the chance of a lifetime to see how a real professional handles a situation that could easily have spun out of control.

Jeff Jarvis, famous for the hashtag #fuckyouwashington and for his media criticism, was drinking a syrah at his home in New York, where it was already 7 PM when the show was supposed to start. Gina Trapani, software developer, was in her home office in San Diego. And Dr. Kiki, the third guest, was  holding her baby in San Francisco.

Everyone was ready at 4 PM PDT to begin streaming the show, except the equipment. For an entire hour Leo and guests fought a persistent echo, a frozen image, and an inability to get the sound levels right. All this occurred on the air, because Leo streams from the studio between shows as well as during them.

This was thrilling. The technology necessary to mount a show with three remote guests that streams both audio and video, records both, and can be cut and edited into a final product downloadable from iTunes, is so complicated that it takes several people to produce. What's so cool about it is that Leo understands it all. What's equally cool is that he never lost his temper or even got ruffled. Jarvis had the wine fo comfort him, and Gina and Dr. Kiki spent a while talking about babies,  and Leo wrestled with the technology.

And I got to listen to it all. As the person formerly known as the audience, I was fascinated. When the show finally went on, although it was interesting, it wasn't quite as interesting as the pre-show glimpse into what happens behind the scenes.

Leo, Jeff, Gina, Dr. Kiki: it was my pleasure to have your company on my drive yesterday. Thanks for all the happy hours, TWIT, and here's to many more in the future.

Posted via email from Not Really Stealthmode

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The Tech Guy with Leo LaPorte « The 1000yr Old Man
November 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

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