Free speech, Web 2.0 style

Bambi Francisco Roizen · September 28, 2007 · Short URL:

When I was a journalist at MarketWatch, I tried introducing the idea of capturing "elevator pitches" of the many startups I met. These elevator pitches, however, weren't exactly material for traditional media. But, as the Vator audience can see, it's definitely valuable content for us. In like vein, Katie Couric's "Free speech" experiment may not be for CBS, but it's definitely valuable content for is a site that allows people to start debates, like "Should dogs wear clothes?" 


Hence the name "friction," as healthy debates typically attract opposing views from very opinionated people. Lucky for, there's no shortage of opiners online.

Critics had questioned CBS' extreme makeover of the evening newscast, when it turned over valuable airtime to such experiments that gave anyone the stage to express their grievances. That's over now, as CBS dropped the experiment, among other things, in hopes of not alienating or putting off its core viewers -- who were happy with former anchors Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer.

But what's not fit for some venues, is definitely rich content for others. In this case, 


In this very informal interview, Omer Shaikh, who founded, tells me just how managed to get its video debates viewed more than 2 million times in a matter of four months. (For a description of what is, watch Omer's explanation in his Vator pitch profile.)


One of the bigger drivers of exposure comes from's partnership with traditional media. These partnerships are structured in a very clever way, in my opinion. Essentially, encourages personalites at traditional media - TV, radio - to spark debates. For instance, one radio station personality posts a debate on Friction every Monday. Throughout the week, responses come in. On Friday, the radio personality has a segment called, "Friday Friction," in which the host discusses the responses he received on Friction. This is great for the radio station, as it can collect fodder and content for its broadcast without worrying about content that's not fit for air. This is great for Friction, as it's raison d'etre is to be the repository of all opinion, however colorful they may be.


Like many media companies, Friction's business model is advertising, sponsorships (for debates), and  licensing or revenue-sharing deals with partners who want to brand their own debates on their site, while using Friction's technology platform.


The site is self-funded, but as Omer tells me, he and his partners are open to engaging in discussions with any interested parties.  



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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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