Temperatures flared toward the end of the first day of OMMA Global San Francisco in March. Sure, it had been a long day. People were cranky. Pay wall discussions tend to bring out the animal in panelists. And 24/7 Real Media's chairman and founder David Moore seemed to think he was ringside at Wrestlemania.
The heated exchange on paid vs. free content was later described as "a little war" by Huffington Post CRO Greg Coleman (who, himself, also got strafed by Moore).
"People pay for content, they pay all the time," exclaimed Moore (this was basically by way of introduction, mind you). "The most successful network is ESPN," he bellowed. "They get $4.5 billion annually in subscriber fees."
"I want all those old outlets to put up pay walls," countered Brian Sugar, CEO & Publisher, Sugar, Inc. Let all the Condé Nast and People and Time Warner properties charge he said. "Because then those people will come to our sites." Would you believe the crowd had been whipped into such a frenzy that they began to applaud? When Sugar concluded after a dramatic pause, "We will never ask people to pay for our content," the audience was positively howling. They smelled blood.
Then Moore went in for the kill. "But this is not premium content," he said.
"I appreciate the insult to my 50 editors here and in New York," Sugar countered, like a kitten ready to lick its paws.
And that is the moment Coleman chose to tout the HuffPo's reach, saying it was approaching the New York Times'.
This nearly sent Moore into a steroidal rage. "I would be astounded if the HuffPo ever made any money," he said.Watch the video of the panel: