Mark Zuckerberg's Lackluster Interview

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We have a new phenomenon on Twitter during live interview events. People breathlessly repeat any words that sound somewhat deep or semi-interesting. This was in full force on Tuesday during Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg's talk at TechCrunch Disrupt.

I happened to be away from a TV at the time, although I watched it later on CNBC's Fast Money. Instead, I followed the interview with Mike Arrington on my phone. Any comment from Zuckerberg got tweeted out by about a dozen people I follow on Twitter who happened to either be at the interview or watching it.

"We lost 2 years on HTML5"

"We lost 2 years on HTML5"

"We lost 2 years on HTML5"

And so on.

If only Twitter had figured out a way to insert a "Promoted Tweet" in the midst of these dozen tweets in my stream about failed native mobile app Web development, I'm sure I would have fat fingered that one.

Twitter is great for "breaking news" like yesterday's comments, but not for analysis. How can you analyze what Zuckerberg is saying, if your mind is solely focused on remembering word-for-word what he just said and then hen-peck typing it back into your device, so you can inform your friends for the umpteenth time?

And the analysis on TV was also kneejerk. I watched a couple of folks comment 10 minutes into a 30-minute speech about how Zuck was doing. "He's saying everything that investors want to hear," said Henry Blodget of Business Insider.

Really? Ten minutes into the interview?

I guess Henry was right because the stock was moving up on the comments. I know that because at least 20 people on my stream commented that Zuckerberg created $4.5 billion in value over the course of his 30-minute talk.

But this is the world we live in now, brought to you by Mark Zuckerberg, among others. Instant analysis. Instant buying and selling. Often based on no more than a few comments here or there without follow-up.

My reaction to Zuckerberg's comments was that he did a pretty good job, although I wouldn't say it was fantastic in the grand scheme of interviews.

The guy was clearly nervous. I don't know that I've ever seen a CEO speak as fast as he did during the first 10 minutes. I have no idea what folks are thinking when they say he was calm, cool and collected. I think he'd tell you he was nervous if you asked him. His rapid speed did make it hard to follow (and easier to just mindlessly tweet).

But in terms of what he said, it's clear he's very smart and very close to this company. He has lots of ideas about where he can take it.

It was refreshing that he admitted that they wasted two years going down the HTML5 road. Does it help or hurt the stock? I'm not sure it works either way.

He admitted that they could get into social search anytime they wanted and make a lot of money from it. I agree with him, but I don't understand what's holding up the train.

He said it was just silly that they would develop their own phone because they want to be Switzerland working with iOS, Android and "the mobile Web." I don't buy it -- and I don't think Arrington did either.

His company is "mission-driven," and his people care about building great stuff and not just making money. A lot of people thought this was admirable and a sign that Facebook was going to be around for a long time. It's nice, but I don't know how this helps sell mobile ads.

As far as mobile, many people noted that Zuckerberg spent a lot of time talking about it. Makes sense to me. This is the biggest challenge facing his company. The fact that he talked about it so much, or that he even decided to do the interview in the first place, is telling. He feels that he needs the stock to go up. The drop in price is hurting morale at the company, and he is likely worried about the coming lock-up expiration.

Zuckerberg asserted Facebook could make more money from mobile than desktop because: 1) there were more users there, 2) they spend more time on mobile than desktop, and 3) Facebook can make more money per amount of time they spend there.

I was with him to No. 3. How exactly is that a given that Facebook can make more money from mobile users due to high engagement? Zuckerberg never said.

About 10 people in my stream complimented Mike Arrington for "doing what the best interviewers do and letting Zuckerberg just talk." I agree that I think Arrington did a super job. Just getting Zuck to agree to sit down was half the battle to having a successful interview. But Zuckerberg made so many rapid-fire comments that were left unchallenged.

Mike Arrington tried several times to go back and clarify what was said. However, he was in almost an impossible spot as an interviewer: He had a hard stop 30-minute time limit and a lot of questions to get through. I don't blame Arrington for not grilling Zuckerberg more. I simply dispute the idea that you should just let Zuckerberg get up there and recite talking points for 30 minutes.

Ideally, I'd like to see Zuckerberg get a grilling for an hour on all the questions still hanging over the company. Unfortunately, I don't think that will ever happen.

Zuckerberg is right that Facebook was never as good as the media said in May, and it's not as bad as most people say it is now. The company has a lot of great opportunities in front of it -- but also some very serious issues that need to be addressed.

At the time of publication, the author had no positions in Facebook.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at

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