Q&A: Yahoo Tech Ticker’s Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy co-hosts web video show Yahoo Tech Ticker, which launched today. She also writes a column for BusinessWeek and has a book coming out about Web 2.0 moguls.

We were interested to hear Lacy’s perspective on moving from print to video, so we spoke with her this afternoon. Lightly edited excerpts follow.

NewTeeVee: Had you done any TV or video work previously?

Sarah Lacy: No, not at all. I’d done some appearances on local news, stuff for BusinessWeek. I had been asked to do some on-camera work but I’d always turned it down. I just felt like as a woman it’s just different — you really lose all your privacy, you just get objectified.

But my ultimate goal was working at a national magazine and writing a book, and I did that a lot sooner than I thought I would. Initially I had the same reaction that a lot of the Valley has — ‘Oh it’s Yahoo, why would you go there?’ But I’ve always used Yahoo Finance as my homepage because it’s just really efficient as a business reporter. I’ve always been frustrated with CNBC because it’s so New York-centric. And if there was a place that was bi-coastal, easily consumable and on demand, I was like ‘God, I would totally watch this all the time.’

The team here comes from TV, and they’re teaching me how to do things like put on makeup. It comes across as very produced and polished, but we’re not talking heads.

NewTeeVee: Why were you interested in the gig?

sarahlacy.jpegLacy: I actually quit BusinessWeek — a lot of people didn’t know that because I write the column now — because they don’t give book leaves of a year, which is what I wanted. After I finished the book, I thought about freelancing and taking it easy. I toyed with the idea of starting my own thing like Om and Arrington have done, but didn’t seem like the right timing in the market and I needed to be promoting my book.

It’s definitely dicey, as you can imagine, launching something like this at Yahoo right now, and it was definitely kind of touchy at times, but I think it
shows we’re pushing the envelope.

NewTeeVee: What kind of interviews and stories are you looking forward to doing?

Lacy: I’ve been really focused on startups for the book and before, so public companies will be different. We have this sort of documentary series “Tales of the Valley,” things that most of us here would take for granted that might be interesting or quirky or weird. We have an upcoming segment on every place you would go to get deals done in the Valley, coffee places and restaurants.

I also really like the CEO interviews. It’s a lot of people I’ve covered for years, but there’s something different about an on-camera interview that you really couldn’t get across in print. The bantering with [co-hosts] Aaron [Task] and Henry [Blodget] is fun for us, but I think really the great service I can do is translating what the Valley is like and breaking through the echo chamber here.

NewTeeVee: At this point there are a lot of people doing online video shows about technology, but all sorts of different approaches — everything from highly produced stuff to pointing a camera in people’s faces to releasing a flood of videos like Robert Scoble does. I’m sure you looked at all them as you were getting ready for your show. What did you want to borrow from and what did you think wasn’t so good?

Lacy: I definitely did not want to do anything like lifecasting or reporter-with-a-handicam. But it’s really frustrating to go into an interview and say ‘Hey let’s knock this out — let me check my lipstick.’ I’d much rather be a reporter with a handicam — you’re autonomous — but in terms of quality I think there are just too many of those things that are just too long, and too much, and a producer can really just help that. I actually do think the show that Om’s doing is good and they’ve gotten really amazing guests. I think Natali del Conte’s new show is really good, but I don’t understand why CNET doesn’t make it embeddable.

Our site has a very modern approach, the way the video comes down the page as you scroll and it can be embedded. If I was a reporter writing a story about us I would have trouble finding stuff to say ‘Oh this is typical Yahoo being Yahoo.’

NewTeeVee: I did see Valleywag faulted you for being typical Yahoo since the site went down earlier today.

Lacy: I take that as we’re really popular. I’ve been refreshing the site all day and it was only down for a little bit. You know from doing a blog people talk about engagement, but it’s really hard. Getting people to comment is hard — that’s something that TechCrunch has done really well. We have like 420 votes today — and there’s maybe one story that doesn’t have a comment. This degree of engagement is really great.

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