Vancouver does SXSW: Zuckerberg Keynote Fails Miserably


Saturday, March 15th, 2008 — 9:00am PDT
Comments 8

Contributed by Colleen of Shot Heard Round the Web

By now, if you pay attention to the tech news at all, you’ll have heard about the absolute train wreck the Mark Zuckerberg keynote was at South by Southwest. I’m not chiming in with anything particularly new I don’t think, but I did want to offer up my take, especially after taking some time to digest it and talk to some people about it.


Photo Credit: Kris Krug on Flickr

The general consensus is that Sarah Lacy of Business Week did a shite job. Her interview was pure fluff and was completely lacking in actual questions. More than once, Zuck said “was that a question?” It was almost as though she went out of her way to embarass the poor guy and was more interested in landing a piece of him for herself than she was in actually asking questions that mattered to the three rooms full of geeks watching.

Zuckerberg has been very very carefully media trained, and whoever he worked with did a good job. He stayed on message, never ever deviating, and was about as flat as he was on 60 minutes. I think that’s his “interview” face. Or his schtick – one or the other. He’s still very young and needs some more time to become better at the interviews, better at answering questions without sounding like he’s simply repeating what he was taught. I don’tparticularly like it, and agree with the twitterer in BlogHaus who said “Zuckerberg is about as articuate as a rock”, but I’ll cut him a tiny bit of slack because he is so young.

My problem was with Sarah and the fact that she acted like a ditz; twirling her hair, asking about his thoughts on his “Forbes Youngest Billionaire” status and doing the leg-uncross-recross-and-lean-in-show you my-cleavage move. Telling stories about Mark that sounded like she was trying to prove to the audience that she knew him and that in turn, managed to embarrass him. There was nothing good about the interview (scratch that, it wasn’t an interview; it was a conversation between two people, only on stage) and it set twitter on fire with people talking about it and riffing on the in room hecklers.

QueenofSpain (Erin Kotecki Vest) [@queenofspain], HuffPo contributor among others, has offered her take here; Brian Solis talked to Sarah herself to find out what her thoughts were. There’s lots more. Just Google it.

The one redeeming thing that Zuck did was to co-opt some time at the Facebook Developers conference and do an Open Q&A. I haven’t heard, or looked for, many response to this move yet, but I’m applauding the move from a PR point of view.

Contributed by Colleen of Shot Heard Round the Web

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8 comments

  1. Some interesting different perspectives from Mike Arrington (with whom I often disagree, but still), Robert Scoble in retrospect, and Fake Steve Jobs.

  2. Raul says:

    While a lot of people have tried to backup Lacy, I too agree that she did an awful job. OMFG is she really trying to land a piece of Zuckerberg? I think Coleen wrote an excellent summary. I’ve seen the whole interview, and even as a non-geek, I was disgusted at the interview. God, please let me never be such a bad interviewer.

  3. Jan says:

    So, was this the “minor scandal involving Zuckerberg” that I heard mentioned on a podcast somewhere?

  4. Eric Dawson says:

    What’s the big deal? or am I missing something.
    Brian summarized it well (IMHO).
    SXSW seemed to want this type of interview. If I was SXSW I would have wanted this type of interview. And me, personally, I enjoyed it – I think they nailed their objective.
    If SXSW did not deliver what people were wanting, maybe they should ask for it (not during the interview), because this obviously wasn’t it. nor was it intended to be. and whose to blame? really?

    just misplaced expectation… sometimes, what is, simple is. and wanting something different, is simply that, wanting something different.

  5. Todd Sieling says:

    I think the whole setup was a big mis-read of the SxSW audience, which wanted to talk about policies, APIs, the hard stuff, and even if it means having to say that Facebook hasn’t solved certain problems yet, to know that concerns are being heard.

    Can we really imagine an operation as reserved and controlled as the Facebook PR team had no idea that Sarah would be giving this kind of interview? The goal was to look more accessible and fun (and to his credit, Zuckerberg was talking to a lot of press at Sx, large and small), but when the tactic went south they left Lacy hanging. Not that she didn’t ask for all the rope and then some.

  6. kk+ says:

    this panel was amazing. i’ve never seen someone self-destruct their own career so publicly and so quickly. mark is an ok speaker for what he is… young and geeky. i wish he could be more real. he feels very trained.

    anyway, good coverage and thx for using my pic! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. […] pm I started hearing about the Mark Zuckerberg interview (awfully conducted by Sarah Lacy) from Coleen (who guest-wrote a post on Rebecca’s blog). For some strange reason I have become obsessed with this particular issue. While I have very short […]

  8. warren says:

    a shout out to bitstrips on this very topic….just heard about it on cbc.

    http://www.bitstrips.com/read.php?comic_id=2485&feed=c_1

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