Patricia Handshiegel

Digital Dish covers the ins and outs of an Internet executive moving into the television arena. Disher Patricia Handschiegel is the founder of Stylediary.net, which she sold to Stylehive.com in November 2007. She has a background in Internet infrastructure and technology business, was an advisor to Kaboodle.com (sold to Hearst in 2007), and has contributed as an entertainment/media business writer for Venturebeat.com. She’s also been an early visionary of professional Internet TV content since 2005 and is currently an advisor on several entertainment/Internet projects. Always an entrepreneur, she had a highly profitable babysitting monopoly at 11, lent her writing skill to students at 17 and landed her first published national article at 23.

She has also worked as a ghost writer for a national TV correspondent. At 22, she was recognized nationally for promoting the growth of women’s hockey and advised companies on creating hockey products for women. She’s been quoted and profiled in dozens of media outlets since and is currently developing two book concepts. A serial entrepreneur, she plans to continue to build Internet, entertainment and media companies, with the goal of promoting social change and charities. She is currently involved in the use of technology to help find missing and abused children, and has contributed financially to TheJoyfulChild.org and other organizations. She is the founder of Look|Shop|List.com (in development).


Digital Dish

How Creatives and Suits Can Play Nice

May 21, 2009 11:29 AM

Like every industry I’ve seen so far, Hollywood is a combination of two sides: On one, the creatives. On the other, the suits.

In the Internet world, it’s the suits versus the geeks. In media business, it’s the suits versus the writers/journalists.

What it really boils down to is money and product. There are those who handle the money, those who create the product. It’s the universal peanut butter and chocolate of every industry.

Lots of elements come together to create the world we live in. Sometimes they do so calmly; sometimes it’s combustible. Gas is converted into a vapor and then lit on fire, more or less, to make an engine move. Naturally there are times when all the elements come together with the right intentions and instead something catastrophic happens.

In the TV world, I suspect that comes in the form of a failure, lawsuit or some other unhappy outcome or union.

A lot of really good companies and organizations are run by people who are a mix of both suit and geek. The guys from Twitter or EQAL are as business-smart as they are geeky. But far larger is the number of people who on one side or the other.

From what people keep telling me in the television business, this is what is killing TV.

As someone who speaks a little of both creative and suit, I’m not sure I agree. But remember, I’m still a bit of a rookie in the business. I marveled at the terms “showrunner” and “leave behind” for months.

I think there is a down market that’s also a disrupted one. It doesn’t matter if you are a suit or a creative—if you can make money right now, you are a genius.

Nonetheless, it’s a pain point I have heard regardless of industry. Getting the creatives and the suits to play together well anywhere is almost as hard as it is to get a show on a network.

The ticket is in everybody changing their mindset a bit. I know the big hit is something that does a lot for a company, but it doesn’t mean steady progress to a big hit does any less. Wouldn’t you love to own Twitter right now? Funny—it was virtually unheard of for more than three long years.

Just the same, as a creative one has to understand that a product’s success is ultimately determined by the outer market and other conditions. This isn’t controlled by the creative or the suit, but the audience, the money, and all kinds of factors.

It’s where the term “perfect storm” comes from. If you want to create, create. If you want to focus on making money, focus on making money. But regardless of which you choose, you must do it specifically for the climate, whatever it may be at the moment. That alone is where to find hits.

It’s not a question of thinking like one or the other, but more like a meteorologist. A project I’ve created is built from this. We’ll see if I’m right! I’ll post more soon about it!

Good Stuff for Online and Off

May 14, 2009 11:33 AM

Not long ago I spoke at the Writers Guild on a new-media panel, where we talked about how to launch various projects and how people can succeed in the multiplatform (Internet, media and entertainment) world.

Afterwards, nearly 30 people were waiting to meet with me to learn more about the various resources and whatnot for anyone launching Internet projects.

It just proves the Web’s not just an Internet business game anymore, but media and entertainment, too.

While most know where to get the latest news, and which are the main social networks, it can be hard to find other places to go to exercise your creative endeavors.

We hosted a shoot not long ago that showed at least one industry executive how freely (and cheaply) content can be created. Here are a few favorite things to use:

The Flip camera: You’ve more than likely seen this tiny digital video gadget in dozens of hands, from those of soccer moms to hipster types and even a few celebrities. But it also can be used to shoot your short Web series or other show. I’m not kidding. It may not produce the high quality you expect on regular television, but for the Web it can be great. We shot a series on it without sound or lighting that turned out just fine.

Braveheartwomen.com: There are a zillion blogs and social networking sites about fashion, gossip and other topics for women, but Braveheart is different. Influencer-stacked at its launch—Dr. Maya Angelou, Leeza Gibbons and Mariel Hemingway are among the site’s contributors/participants—the site is designed to bring women around the world together and give them a voice. You can blog, share, engage in community and all that good stuff. The power of empowerment!

iPhone: Yes, it’s cliché, but the iPhone is really great for taking pictures. Not only can you snap the shots of the things you’re into, but extend it to everywhere you engage online, like Twitter, your blog, etc. BlackBerry fans can get the same effect with the Curve (though iPhone’s photos are better). Imagine a great book or blog series of life from cell phone pictures. I’ve known some creators to work handhelds into larger picture stories.

Luxury settings: Any creator knows that it can be tough to work alone at home, especially when you’re seeking inspiration. Luxury hotels around the city are hot spots for co-working for this reason! I love Oceana in Santa Monica for its heart-shaped pool and quiet, oceanfront setting. Digital executives have flocked to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. I like the Westin off Market Street in San Francisco and London in New York for the same purpose.

Networks Strike Back

April 30, 2009 12:15 PM

The Internet hasn’t just disrupted the media and entertainment businesses, but countless other industries as well, such as travel, manufacturing, retail and advertising.

As this has happened, every single one of these categories has had to adapt and adjust. It’s not been just within their own processes and efforts, but in moving their customers along as well. It’s been going on since the late 1990s, when the proliferation of the consumer Internet came about.

The Web is a lot older than this, of course, but it was the dawn of many new things (AOL, etc.) that moved the masses forward. It’s been at it ever since.

In my opinion, yesterday’s MySpace is today’s Twitter and tomorrow’s who knows what. It’s why companies that focus on processes —versus platforms—catch the type of attention they do. It’s not where you do it or what online, but how.

Compared with the other industries that have been shaken up by the Web, entertainment executives are faring pretty well. The moves being made aren’t always the wisest, most logical or most successful, but the important thing is that moves are being made. It ranges in all aspects of the process, not just content or creation, but marketing, monetizing and other elements as well.

The good news is that the industry continues to keep adapting better and better as things move along.

Online series “The Phone,” produced by Fremantle, MTV and Justin Timberlake, has such an online following that it’s been said 40,000 people signed up for its Facebook page in a week. NBC is experimenting with all kinds of interesting ideas with its TV shows as well, like ancillary content intended to drive users back and forth between the two (Web and TV) platforms. I realize “The Motherhood” was canned pretty quickly, but I don’t think it’ll be the last time we see a show developed from ideas on the Web.

It’s good stuff. I think the approach networks need to take is just this: Find what works for you, for your audience, and build it out from there.

TV and Me: Adjusting to the Barrier

April 17, 2009 11:10 AM

A few weeks ago, I was laughing about some of my early efforts to create TV and Web TV projects, and the long, crazy course that followed in the few years I explored the business. I thought it’d be kind of cool to look back on it a bit, so my next few blog posts will do just that.

Let me just tell you. On the surface it seems like television is an easy business. You would just assume that an idea that seems great or interesting could be a show, and that to get it on TV you just have to tell someone. If they like it, they’ll take it. That’s that.

Anybody reading this knows otherwise.

I have never worked as hard as I have trying to make Web and eventually broadcast TV projects. It isn’t just because I was new to the business. Web TV was difficult because it was new to everyone. Broadcast, on the other hand, has the most brutal barrier of entry ever. It was quite a culture shock for someone who comes from an environment like the Web, where the barrier of entry is drastically less.

Of course, over time everything gets easier. You find the smoother processes and adjust to the conditions.

I am still in utter awe of it. I am not joking when I say that creating something like Facebook is nothing compared to creating something like this. I am not talking about running Facebook, monetizing it, etc. But in terms of putting something together, the difference between a Web site project and a TV project is literally like bunny hill versus Olympics.

For a really long time I suffered from the adjustment. It was exasperating. I seriously think it ages people.

Of course you stick it out. There’s always money and time invested in any project, and as an entrepreneur you want to see it to an outcome, regardless of what it is. I still struggle with the rigorous endurance required, but I’m much more in TV business shape now. I’m thankful.

I don’t know why it was so hard to adjust to the climate difference between it and the Internet industry, but it certainly was. Media business is far easier, even. It’s almost possible for anyone to walk into a network and appear on camera as a guest these days. I’ve seen it.

But television is very different. I realize now it’s streamlined for those who do it often, and you get a knack for the process, who is doing what, etc. However, it was quite a change from what I was used to.

This past year was the hardest, but without a doubt one of my first lessons in TV business was a hard (and funny) one. I will post it next week.

TV and Me: The Early Days

April 9, 2009 1:35 PM

A few weeks ago, I was laughing about some of my early efforts to create TV and web TV projects, and just the long, crazy course that followed in the few years I explored the business. I thought it’d be kind of cool to look back on it a bit so the next few DD posts will do just that.

I first started wanting to make episodic/professional Web TV content in 2005, right as the MySpace boom was happening and everybody was talking about user-driven content. Having a background in Internet protocol at the engineering level, I knew back then that broadcast and broadband would start to merge together, and that user-driven content would be hard to monetize. Professionally created content would be better.

I wanted to create a docu-reality style weekly Web TV show on my then-site Stylediary.net that went into people’s closets, gushed over their amazing stuff, talked about their look, etc., professional format, editing, etc.

Most of all, I wanted to make an example of how Web TV could be created and distributed. I’m an entrepreneur because I love to try to create ideas and concepts that parlay into theories and trends. The thought was that we’d shoot the series on regular consumer video cameras, have it professionally edited, five minutes in length–just like a regular show, only smaller. Then, put out once a week with marketing.

I wanted it to capture a real, “you are here” moment, and also, try to encourage people to record similar videos of their own closets to engage the audience.

After all, that’s what community is all about, finding ways to tap the interest, creativity and interactivity of members. I know I loved walking into my friends’ closets and going bananas over their shoes!

Our focus had to be on Stylediary’s core business at that time (editorial/content, community), but as I could I experimented and explored the various ways to make Web TV. At the time, it was hard to find producers, etc. on the entertainment side that didn’t push for a full blown production, and I couldn’t find anyone on the Internet side that could scale up to what we wanted to accomplish.

It was as if entertainment business couldn’t shrink to make a simple web show, and Internet business couldn’t expand to make something that looked more like TV.

And trust me, I had no idea of what exactly would work either. But, I didn’t mind. It was early for Web TV and I enjoyed trying to learn the process. Believe me, the lessons I learned back then were priceless! After months of trying unsuccessfully to find someone who’d just edit whatever footage we shot, I finally gave in on taping as a full production. Lights, makeup, everything. In the end, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t what I envisioned, it wasn’t what I thought would work or even what I had described.

Little did I know, this would continue on repeatedly in my creator efforts until just a few months ago, when I finally realized the right answer. In between were a few hard lessons.

By mid-2006, however, I caught sight of another, larger possibility and with that, my efforts toward Web TV shifted. I no longer wanted to produce Web shows. I wanted broadcast.

Next week, I’ll continue the rest of story. Stay tuned for what happened next!

I Like It Better!

April 1, 2009 3:47 PM

Let me just say this: TV business is very difficult!

It’s not like Internet business, where a Word Press pro blog can be turned into a red-hot digital property or shooting a Web show can take nothing more than you holding a camera.

No, TV business is this crazy, nebulous, sort of dark water that you wade through slowly while avoiding sharks and other sea creatures.

I am not sure how others come up in the market or learn the ropes, but my journey on this has been challenging, to say the least.

Not long ago at dinner, an exec at a major online distribution platform said that Digital Dish seemed “dark” for a while there.

I want to hide when I learned it was that obvious! But, as someone once said to me (and as has been since repeated many times since), creating a television show is a lot like pushing a rock up a hill, and the rock gets bigger and bigger the higher you get.

I spent the first five months in the industry relying on the traditional way of doing business. About three months ago, I made a switch. Since then, I have personally met with every network I’ve wanted to but three. Some have invited us back to give them a first look at anything new we’re working on, and my company 9 has just taken on its first show to be packaged.

I feel a lot better.

It hasn’t stemmed solely from my efforts of course! Anybody in TV will be the first to say it takes a village. But what I have found was the right combination for myself, a creator. It includes co-creators and production partners with the same kind of work style and energy that I have, alliances in the industry that let me ask questions and, most of all, an understanding of the formula that works best for what I do in the market.

That’s not to say that some of this stuff wasn’t in place all along. It just took me time to find the right fit for doing things. Now that I’m here, it feels like a normal, everyday type of business.

It’s still a challenge! But things seem to flow and work much better.

The concepts I’ve co-created are garnering real interest. I know that the chance of selling one of these first few ideas is slim, but I don’t mind. Part of the work you do as an entrepreneur is building your offerings in the market. I feel at long last content for the first time in a year.

Have I finally found a happy place and where I belong in the business? I hope so.

It’s still hard work, without question. We have gotten every meeting in the industry ourselves and it has meant quite a bit of work. Though we know a few agents and have asked for advice here and there, we haven’t reached out or engaged with any firms for representation yet.

Sometimes people ask me how we were able to get in the door of so many places without this. The answer is kind of funny but true: We simply asked.

Fingers crossed that things continue to move along. You’re a tough cookie, Hollywood, but I think I’m once again smitten!

Conversations With Really Smart People in Web TV

March 26, 2009 10:47 AM

I’ve been all over the brands, entertainment/TV, media, Internet and retail business these past few months for my new startup. I’ve been from the halls of major networks and studios to hybrid startups to iconic Internet companies and, more important, I’ve spent the past five months listening to a lot of people about the Internet and future of TV.

We met people of all types and backgrounds in the market. Some were confused and wanted to learn, some were sure they had the right idea, some were just excited to be involved.

But most importantly, it included a great number of really smart, really bright and very cool minds that are shaping the future of the industry.

Tubefilter and Streamy’s co-founder Brady Brim-Deforest, who is an awesome voice in the market, said it best: The community is driving Web TV forward. It’s true and it’s exciting!

The Streamy Awards will be held Saturday in Los Angeles. You can check out details here.

I’m excited to be attending the awards. I’ve waited a long time for the Internet platform to have the capability to handle Web TV. We’re a ways away from it being a reality in every consumer home, but as Brim-Deforest said as we chatted on the phone this week, it’s not much different from how it was with broadcast TV in the 1940s and ’50s.

It’s a mindset that I hear more and more in the business now, and one that I’ve discussed in many conversations since entering the entertainment industry. I studied the business dating back to that era for the work I’m doing on my new startup, 9. Much of this and more will be in my soon-to-be published white paper on the future of TV.

It’s exciting to see the growth and development of the industry.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about some of the good voices I’ve come across in the market. I’ll also have some big news! Stay tuned.

Happy First Anniversary!

March 18, 2009 2:32 PM

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I first expanded my work into television business. It seems like it was 100 years ago (and that I’m 100 years older!) since I made the move.

It’s a lot harder to create and sell a TV show than it is an Internet site. Not to say making money via either is easy.

Was it really only a year ago that I marveled at terms like “showrunner” and “leave behind?” I can still remember my first meeting at a network, A&E in New York. To this day, the VP and I still keep in touch. It seems like we should be talking about our grandchildren by now.

Has the television industry aged me? I think it has. It has certainly taught me a lot of new things about entrepreneurship.

In this town, business is very focused on revenue and power lies more in the hands you don’t see than the ones you do.

Overall, I think our projects have fared OK so far. Several networks and production companies have said they’d like to continue working with us and there’s a lot of interest in the different things I’m working on. That’s one similarity I can say definitely exists between the broadcast and broadband worlds: Nothing’s done until a deal is signed and the check has cleared.

I admit I actually really like working in the business now. The process is difficult, but I understand it far better today (which makes things a little easier). I definitely see the center of the industry and who you need to know to get things done. I’m trying to make it there!

I don’t even think the tight perimeters and strongholds on the market are a big deal anymore. All you have to do is understand that they’re there and build your project accordingly. After one year, I think I’m closer to all of this than I’ve ever been.

Hollywood, I love you.

Funding, Old Dogs and New Tricks

March 3, 2009 10:49 AM

It’s been a bit since I blogged about the work I’ve been doing in the entertainment business. It’s in part because there were still a lot of things moving along and developing that were too early to share, and in part because there have been so many great things to talk about regarding the convergence of TV and the Web.

I’ve waited for a long time for the market to move to the place it is at the moment. As more momentum gathers around Web TV, it’s hard not to want to get into it.

But this week, I can finally share some news and new developments on how things have been going with my expansion into entertainment from Internet business. In case anybody needs a refresher on the back story, after selling my Internet startup in late 2007, I began an effort to expand into the entertainment/TV business. I have a multiplatform franchise that I’ve since co-created and developed, and late last year I launched a “transmedia” consulting and content production startup called 9. In 140 characters or less, 9 is essentially a hybrid consulting/production shop that does business and content across any platform in the market. It services brands, entertainment, Internet, media and retail companies—all arenas I have an extensive amount of experience in.

This past week, 9 closed on an angel funding round from private investors. It will be used to spark the next stage in business development and a few new production projects. I’m excited!

Daily Patricia Twitter Page

I’ve also been marveling at all the buzz around Twitter. It seems a lot of brands, entertainment talent and media personalities have taken it up, and this, of course, has everybody buzzing. What’s interesting is that there is almost no mention of this very same hooplah about celebrities and brands using MySpace just a few short years ago.

Dear Media and Bloggers: Yes, celebrities use the Internet. It’s not an old dog or a new trick.

What’s far more interesting to the story, in my opinion, is how celebrities are beginning to understand that they can own their own brand and control their own message via the Web. It’s an interesting shift. As for Twitter, the rage for me isn’t so much in its Web element but the fact that it is the first social network to be truly “device-agnostic.” You can Twitter via phone/text or your PC.

That’s huge for a few reasons. First, this is entirely what the Web is designed to do and will do—that’s a look at the future there. Second, the fact that users are adopting it is enormous.

User adoption, and nothing more, is the most important element on the Web. Without users adapting and adopting, even the best ideas won’t win.

If you ask me, that’s where everything you create should come from, regardless of platform. Not what advertisers love, or what investors love, but what users love. Make that and the rest will fall right into step.

It might be wishful thinking, but I hope I’ve done this with the projects I’m working on. We’ll see what happens! I can’t lie. I’m the happiest I’ve been since I started on the journey into Hollywood. Hooray!

Misinformation, Egos and Inexperience Making Adjustment to Web Harder

February 24, 2009 10:10 AM

Would you take business advice from somebody who has no real business background or experience? Probably not. But that’s exactly what hundreds of thousands of industries, companies and executives across the country are doing with relation to business and the Internet.

It’s the downside of new and disruptive technologies. It brings the best and the worst out of a market. It lowers the barrier of entry, opening the door for a flood of new people taking advantage of opportunity. The downside, unfortunately, is that it also creates a lot of noise for businesses to sift through.

It can become hard to qualify who to truly listen to and what advice to follow, often resulting in costly mistakes.

For the past year, the trend in business has been to create a “personal brand” and the Web makes it easier than ever. But a high level of exposure or visibility doesn’t always mean experience. In fact, in today’s market, it can often mean the opposite. Many who speak on panels or push for media/blog coverage are not necessarily doing so because they have viable experience and information to share. Media, bloggers and conference organizers often select contributors on the basis of their media presence or association with large companies versus real background and experience.

It can mean that you’re taking business advice from someone who has very little real experience in business.

There is little vetting in most online and traditional media outlets today. A major business television network had a guest on several times last year that had no previous business experience and wasn’t even employed. Last year, a big brand signed a deal with a well connected blogger only to find backlash and embarrassment. At a panel discussion including digital executives of many top companies last year, attendees were whispering about how the panelists seemed inexperienced in relation to the Web.

“He has no idea what he’s talking about,” is not what you want to hear about someone you’re paying a six figure salary to handle your online efforts.

I don’t blame people for being confused. The Internet is still relatively new. Those who are new to it will struggle. Even those with extensive experience can’t be 100% sure of what works. But for businesses of all types, it can mean problems that cannot only delay the ability to adapt their models to the Internet platform, but also trouble for the rest of us. I personally would be reluctant to work with anyone who doesn’t have a background dating to Web 1.0 (1998-2000) to present. I don’t care how much of an overnight success he or she has been.

A lot of the lessons of the past can solve problems today. If your team has less than three years of experience in the market, they’d have no way of knowing this.

It’s why I created my company 9 in 2008, and have decided to write a series of technical white papers about the internet as a platform and how businesses can adapt. While I have an extensive background in the industry dating to 2000, including in IP at the engineering level and all facets of consumer facing sites, I’m not going to tap my personal experience or knowledge, but that of people who have been building the backbone of the Web.

It’s because in the nine years I worked in this area of the industry, I’ve repeatedly found it to be the most useful and accurate in mapping out how to do business on the Web. For example, by having a sense of what the Web is designed to do, I knew in 2004 what would be happening today with Web TV, that user driven content would be difficult to monetize and that social networking alone would struggle with keeping mass audiences sticky–all very true in the present.

The white paper will discuss what the Web is, current problems and solutions for the future, starting with TV business. I will post a link here when it’s finished.