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Episode 25 August 9, 2016 | 46min

A Conversation about Virtual Reality

Our co-founders talk to Elizabeth Spiers about her new VR research firm.

Show Notes

From digital journalism to virtual reality: this week, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Elizabeth Spiers, whom Paul describes as “both a human being and essentially a human media platform.” (Elizabeth scales the description back a bit with “digital media nerd.”) She chronicles her career, from founding editor of Gawker to “launch consultant” for digital products, and they discuss her brand-new company, The Insurrection, a research firm that specializes in VR.

Paul Ford: Hi, I’m Paul Ford, and this is Track Changes, the official podcast of the Postlight agency. I’m joined by my co-founder —

Rich Ziade: Rich Ziade.

Paul: Rich, what does Postlight do?

Rich: You do this to me every time. Postlight is a digital studio that builds and designs amazing products in New York City.

Paul: That’s the way I remember —

Rich: Open for business.

Paul: Anybody who wants a job or us to do some work, just come on by. Just swing by anytime.

Rich: Or if you just want to build something beautiful.

Paul: Better would probably be to send us an email to [email protected]. It lets us, you know, address your issues more…

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: In a more controlled environment.

Rich: I call ’em dreams, but you can call ’em issues.

Paul: Fiiiine. Rich, we’re very lucky today. Do you know why?

Rich: I do know why, though I don’t know…is it “spy-ers,” or “spears.”

Elizabeth Spiers: “Spy-ers.”

Rich: “Spy-ers.” Elizabeth Spiers.

Elizabeth: I sometimes respond to “spears” anyway, just because so many people say it…

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And I can’t be bothered, I know they’re talking to me…

Paul: I mean, should we give her first name as well? [laughter]

Rich: Elizabeth.

Paul: Ahhhh, we did it! Elizabeth Spiers is in the studio.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Hi.

Elizabeth: Hello.

Rich: Who is —

Paul: It’s a rough start. We gotta do —

Rich: Elizabeth Spiers?

Paul: We gotta bring this up a little bit. Come on, come on.

Rich: Who is Elizabeth Spiers?

Paul: I think of Elizabeth Spiers as both a human being and essentially a human media platform. [laughter]

Rich: Full blown.

Paul: No, for real, for real.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Because it’s like, if you have watched her career over time, it’s like, oh hey, she shows up in 2002…I was a baby at that point, I mean not really, I was an adult, but I had no idea what was going on in the world, and suddenly there’s this new thing called Gawker.com, and the slogan of Gawker was…“Radical Manhattanism.” That made everybody really, really angry. [laughter] And you were the editor?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: And so that was like, OK, well this person’s an editor, and then, like, a couple years later, all these mailing lists started happening, and like…how do you articulate what you do?

Elizabeth: Um, it sort of depends on what I’m working on at the moment, because I feel like even within the confines of media, I’ve done a lot of different things? You know, I’ve been a writer, I’ve been an editor, I’ve done digital launches, I’ve worked on the business side, I’ve been an entrepreneur. So it sort of depends on the context and whatever’s happening at the moment. I tell people I’m a digital media nerd that somehow figured out how to create jobs out of that. [laughter]

Paul: We worked together on a project years ago, and it was for Condé Nast, the big magazine publishing company. Not just magazines anymore. And we had this sit — we were creating this new digital platform for the iPad and blah blah blah blah blah, and we were making it, and it was really cool, and then somebody was like, “Well, we’re going to have to, like, hire a staff and actually build the publication.” And I realized I had no idea exactly how to do that, and I looked around and, like, nobody else did, and then, that’s your job. Like, we called you up, and you were like, “Yep. Got it. I’ll see you later. Just let me get this done for you.” And you went ahead and staffed this whole thing, probably hired about ten people, got it moving along. So is there actually a title for that job?

Elizabeth: I don’t know. Whenever I’ve done it for other companies, I’ve just referred to myself as “launch consultant.” But what you’re really doing there is you’re coming in and you’re either being a kind of editor in chief/publisher-for-hire, or in some cases an entrepreneur, if you’re building something that’s more product-oriented and trying to figure out how to monetize it and…

Rich: It’s a little like acting…acting product manager? Acting editor in chief?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: It’s not…long-term. You’re gonna sort of put the wheels in motion and then…

Elizabeth: A shameless mercenary. [laughter]

Rich: Yeah. Right.

Paul: What kind of decisions are you making — like is the first thing you’re doing going, “Where’s my budget? What’s going…” Like, how do you start a job like that?

Elizabeth: I think for me, like, I don’t have a long discovery process, because you can normally suss out pretty quickly what the client thinks they want. And then you ask them — in a way that makes them comfortable telling you what they think it’s going to cost —

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: In an honest way. And then —

Paul: How do you do — wait, how do you do that? You just, unless this is a trade secret.

Elizabeth: You make them comfortable with the framing. I think you just say up front, if they ask you about budget first, you go, “Well…” And this isn’t a trade secret, this is what everybody does, you say, “We can work with whatever you’re thinking about.” And then, you know, you get them to articulate what exactly their expectation of the product is gonna be, what their expectations of staffing are gonna be. And you know, in most cases, everybody undershoots budgets.

Paul: There’s a lot of editorial fantasies about budgets, I have noticed that.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: People are like, “I think for, like, $100,000 a year we can take on CNN.” And you’re like…

Elizabeth: Yeah, no, that’s nuts. I’ve dealt with a lot of that, and particularly, this is one area where my background might handicap me a little bit, because everybody remembers the origin story of Gawker, at least the people that hire me do. And they have —

Paul: Wait, what is that origin story?

Rich: Yeah, I want to hear about it.

Elizabeth: Uh…basically, you know, Nick and I said, let’s just try this. We didn’t think it was really going to be a business. So it was just me…

Paul: So Nick Denton at that point was not a crazy supervillain that everybody had weird opinions about, but just some guy, right?

Elizabeth: Uh…I think…

Rich: Some would argue he’s still “some guy.”

Elizabeth: I think he was, I mean, the thing was, I met him two weeks after he’d moved to New York, and he had already done Moreover and First Tuesday, so he was a known quantity…

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: You know, I think for a lot of people, even in media, and he had a well-read blog, and so, you know, I thought Gawker was going to be a ten-hour-a-week kind of thing…

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: It ended up spiraling out of control in a full-time job, but…

Paul: How did you meet him?

Elizabeth: It was just…at a Metafilter party.

Paul: Ahhhhh.

Rich: The best kind of party.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: That’s right. No no, we’ve talked about this. We’ve actually, I think, maybe even talked about this specifically on the show, because we’ve had both Anil Dash and Matt Haughey on. OK.

Elizabeth: Yeah, well, Anil introduced us.

Paul: He like, literally said, you two guys?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: I also met Choire Sicha at that party.

Paul: Woooow. That was a hell of a party.

Rich: I think Anil introduced everyone to everyone else.

Paul: I know, but this is a wild party, because out of this, the entire thing was born. OK, so you and Nick are like, all right, you’re like, OK, I’ll help you with your blog?

Elizabeth: Kind of. I mean, Nick and I got to be close friends.

Paul: Mmmm hmmm.

Elizabeth: You know, we met at the Metafilter thing, and then I started dating one of his friends, and this guy Peter and I broke up, or Peter dumped me, and Nick and I stayed friends. And I think, for a while there, we were both mutually interested in blogging, but we were working on other stuff.

Paul: OK, so this happens. You’re in there, you’re starting Gawker.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and I think we thought, you know, let’s see what happens. Nick wanted to figure out how to monetize it, but he was working on a software project at the time that he was calling the Lafayette Project.

Paul: Kinja.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, it later morphed into Kinja.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: I think originally it was supposed to be a more commercialized Technorati.

Paul: Aaaaaah. Whoa.

Rich: Whoa.

Elizabeth: And it just kinda never got out the door, and by that time, Gizmodo was up, Gawker was up, and they were both having some success, and Nick thought, well, maybe this is my business, you know?

Paul: OK. How long were you there?

Elizabeth: Ten months.

Paul: Oh! I have it in my head as much longer. What happened after Gawker?

Elizabeth: It seems like it was longer. And probably because for the first five months, I was writing every day, and I was doing 12 posts a day.

Paul: Whoa.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: So you set that pace?

Elizabeth: Yeah, well I didn’t really set that pace. Nick was like, “It’s gotta be 12 posts a day.” And, you know —

Rich: What’s the premise? Like you’re writing 12 posts a day. It’s called — like, Gizmodo, OK, fine. New —

Paul: Do you ask the guy in the locomotive who’s like, shoveling the coal in, what the premise is?

Rich: I mean…

Paul: He’s gotta — there’s a fire! [laughter]

Rich: I mean, Gizmodo, there’s a sort of hidden…not even hidden, just, gizmos! Phones!

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Right? Battery cases.

Paul: Radical Manhattanism was the premise.

Rich: Right. So…OK, so Gizmodo, oh cool, I get to hear about tech stuff. Gawker, what was the premise? I mean —

Elizabeth: Gawker…

Rich: Was it fully formed at that point?

Elizabeth: No.

Rich: OK, so…

Elizabeth: Nick and I had similar, you know, I think, world views about New York culture and so…I was a big admirer of Spy magazine and Suck.com.

Rich: Got it.

Elizabeth: You know, I liked those things tonally, I liked Private Eye.

Rich: OK.

Elizabeth: I liked The Observer during its heyday.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And so I thought, you know, maybe we can replicate something like that online…

Rich: I see.

Elizabeth: Something tonally similar, with a take on what it means to be a part of New York culture.

Rich: Got it. OK.

Paul: And do it online —

Rich: But still —

Paul: Which was very novel at that, like, to kind of bring a kind of elevated but also…

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Journalistic voice? Like, it wasn’t personal.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: It was about other people.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And it was gossipy, and that was like…that was kind of a big deal in that moment, because most blogs, I mean, were about, like…I don’t remember when Gothamist started, but there were very few, it was a very nascent scene where people were like, this could be used for something besides…

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Not just talking about what you ate that day, but like, something besides, like, just random tech musings, or…

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think during the time, I sort of remember that if you were blogging in 2000 or ’99, like, you either had a personal blog or LiveJournal that was about your life, or you were writing about technology or you were writing about politics. But there really weren’t subject-driven blogs.

Paul: OK, so you show up, and then onto New York Magazine.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Partly for financial reasons, I mean Nick had agreed to pay me $1,500 bucks a month to work on it, and then whenever I demanded to take weekends off, because it was exhausting me, he cut the stipend to like $1,200 bucks, which like —

Paul: Awwww.

Elizabeth: If you know Nick —

Rich: Damn.

Elizabeth: It’s such a Nick thing to do, but….

Rich: Jeez.

Paul: Well, the company was famous for it — I mean, it was famous for like, you could kind of get away with anything, but you were incredibly impoverished, early days.

Elizabeth: Well I think the assumption was you could just freelance on top of it, which you could, but then you’re working 70 hours a week and…

Rich: You have no life.

Elizabeth: It’s…it’s still exhausting, and I just couldn’t even…

Paul: You just didn’t want it enough. Just didn’t want it enough. [laughter]

Elizabeth: I guess. [laughter]

Paul: So you went to work for —

Elizabeth: I really wanted to pay my rent.

Paul: Sure. And have a life, maybe see friends…yeah.

Elizabeth: Occasionally, yeah.

Paul: It’s not really what writing’s about, but OK. Fine. [laughter] So, and then, yeah, you’re writing and….you’re at New York Magazine and then you make the, like, very quickly in a New York career, like, I don’t know if — a lot of our listeners are very technology-oriented people, like, to go from founding editor, Gawker.com, after growing up in…

Elizabeth: Alabama.

Paul: OK, so, Alabama, New York City, Gawker, New York Magazine, and then editor in chief at Mediabistro after, like, two years.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: That’s a big deal. It’s pretty crazy.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Does your family back in Alabama know who you are, two years in?

Elizabeth: No. [laughter]

Rich: I gotta imagine, you’re in another planet.

Paul: Are they on the web, then?

Elizabeth: My dad isn’t. My mom is now, but I think that’s…you know, she’s a grandma, and there’s Facebook. My dad was —

Rich: But 2004….

Elizabeth: Oh, no, I mean, my dad retired a few years ago, but he was the local lineman for Alabama Power.

Rich: Got it.

Elizabeth: Until a few years ago, he’d never been on the internet. This was after I’d been working on the internet for years. He’s a shameless happy luddite. He still has a flip phone and just learned to text like six months ago. Did it once and refuses to do it again. [laughter]

Rich: Wow.

Paul: What made you decide on New York City, though? What was…

Elizabeth: I was…so, I went to school in North Carolina, at Duke, and I wanted to work in foreign policy and I just couldn’t find a job, or at least not one that paid. But I had started, co-founded a nonprofit while I was there, and I sort of found doing that, it was like running a small business, and I think that was the first, my first entrepreneurial experience?

Paul: Uh huh.

Elizabeth: And you know, the first dot-com boom was ramping up, and I thought, well, if I can’t work in foreign policy, I want to work in a start-up, because I want to see what it’s like to be in a real entrepreneurial environment, so I started drafting resumes, and my first job was at a company called TheSquare.com, which was an early social network. It was in the 55 Broad building.

Paul: Sure.

Elizabeth: The quote-unquote first wired building in New York, because they had a T1, so it was a big deal.

Paul: Whoa. A T1 line!

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: Everyone has that, like, on their phone now.

Elizabeth: Yeah, pretty much. [laughter]

Paul: So there’s a thing that’s interesting there that really surprised me, which is that — and you sort of gloss over it, you’re like, “Oh! And when I was in college, I set up a not-for-profit.” Like, most people don’t set up not-for-profits. You seem to be someone who really does like to set up, kind of like, organizations and institutions.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: A lot of people in college talk about it. [laughter]

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: They talk a lot about that.

Paul: Like I would have been too scared. I would have been like, I don’t know how to do that. That’s…that’s for the very capable people like you who are, like, living down the hall in the dorm.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: What gets you over that? You’re like, oh, let’s start an organization, get people involved, call them up, tell them they need to get over here. Was that just always you?

Elizabeth: No, I’m a little oblivious to risk sometimes, like I don’t, I feel like I take a lot of calculated risks and I don’t really recognize it as risk at all. You know, I’m starting a new company now, and I don’t see taking a staff job somewhere as something that’s necessarily more stable.

Paul: Fair, and there’s something — I was talking about this with Rich as we were walking over: temperamentally, and I really respect both choices, but Rich has young children, you have a very young child, I have two young children. He and I just started a business together. You’re starting a business. And I feel, like, at this point, every single cell in my body should be screaming, “GO GET A STABLE JOB. You can get a stable job. You can be somewhere. You can work for a while. You can make sure that the kids are provided for.” But my brain just won’t allow it.

Elizabeth: Well I also just kind of, I question the premise. Are there stable jobs for people like us?

Paul: [sighs] Not in the media industry. That’s true. I feel that —

Rich: You’re no longer in that industry, Paul.

Paul: No, but I — well, not any more.

Rich: You’re now a technology entrepreneur.

Paul: I feel that anyone who gets past the age of about 32 or 33 in media and is still in the business has proven that they’re kind of actually crazy. Like, it’s a crazy —

Rich: And very resilient.

Paul: Yeah. And resilient.

Rich: Right?

Paul: Like, if people are still writing, and doing things…

Rich: The word that comes to mind — I mean, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in that world through you?

Paul: Mmmm hmmm.

Rich: And the word that comes to mind, because you’ve introduced me to a lot of people, is hustle.

Paul: Yeah. You have to hustle to thrive at all.

Rich: Yeah. I mean, the rest of the world is thinking, I’m up for my promotion in two years, and I’ll get a bonus at the end of this year.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Which is fine. I don’t mean to say that in a derogatory way. But those are smooth waters. Those are very still waters, that you’re just sort of drifting down, and in media, I mean, it’s just not the case. First, even inside of big media organizations, it’s pretty freakin’ ruthless. It’s not like you can do that inside those — because there is a guy walking around with a machete all the time.

Paul: That’s true. How are you —

Rich: From my observations.

Paul: Elizabeth, how are you at media world politics? Are you good?

Elizabeth: I think what I’ve had to do, and I’ve been OK, but I will say, I think because I don’t like heavy bureaucracy and politics, and I try to not put myself in situations or engagements where I feel like I spend most of my time doing that? If I have to do it a little bit it doesn’t bother me. You know, we were working for Condé Nast — like, I enjoyed that project.

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And I didn’t…

Rich: As I’m looking at your timeline here, Elizabeth, you’ve got the itch. You didn’t stick around anywhere for seven years.

Elizabeth: Well, I didn’t really have a choice, the first…

Rich: OK.

Elizabeth: Decade of my career, because I constantly needed to make more money, and I went from making…literally, I got my 1099 back for Gawker and I made $13,000 total doing it.

Paul: I had those years —

Rich: For the year?

Paul: That’s a bad —

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Wow.

Elizabeth: And just to get to…

Rich: Yeah, that’s rough.

Elizabeth: A period where I could pay rent and student loans, I had to switch jobs four times.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So I have an acquaintance who at at the time was sort of making fun of me in a blog, and saying, like, I was a job hopper and I had no attention span and I thought…[laughter]

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Well I’m glad you can pay your rent. [laughter]

Rich: Yeah. Yeah.

Elizabeth: Actual compensation is an issue for me right now.

Rich: Right. I respect that. I just want to say that, yeah, I don’t think it’s bad to have an itch, and to have a short attention span and explore and want to be in other places.

Paul: And I don’t think it’s bad to want to make some money.

Rich: If you can do both, that’s awesome.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Then you’ve hit it, right? But let’s face it: you could’ve settled in somewhere.

Elizabeth: Well, where? Like, which of those…

Rich: Uh, maybe…

Elizabeth: Jobs do you think I could’ve stayed at.

Paul: Maybe not these —

Rich: Maybe not any of these, my point is, you could’ve been sort of a…you know, in the middle of the blob of…Condé, or one of the bigger publishers — just done a really good job — and made sure that your boss was happy, and all is well. And you were there for seven years.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think if I were gonna do that, I probably would’ve stayed at New York Magazine, because I wasn’t unhappy there — I had, you know, it was a great work environment, I was working with smart people and for smart people. And what really killed me about it was, you know, I never really got to write anything, I was super junior, and I think when Adam Moss came in, you know, I learned a lot from him, but the likelihood that I was going to write anything was lower.

Paul: Oh, really? OK.

Elizabeth: You know…

Paul: The listeners may not know who he is. He’s a famously tough editor.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: From New York City.

Elizabeth: And I just, you know, I thought, I could stay here for a decade and, you know, not really accomplish anything, and I would probably be perfectly happy going into work every day, but you know, I don’t operate like that. I need to be occupied all the time, and I need…you know, to be working and stuff.

Paul: You have like a little secret skill rolling around in there, too, which is that you can set up institutions and organizations and build communities, which actually is one of the things that the media industry got itself in so much trouble over like, the last 15 years, because it didn’t acknowledge that as a skill all the time. And so given what you’ve actually done, the things that you would go on and do, and the kind of connection point you became throughout the industry, it would’ve made a lot more sense for some of the institutions you work for, like New York mag or whatever, to actually try to hold on to that, but throughout the entire time I’ve been in the city, it’s never been a strength of the industry. They’re just like —

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: “Oh, she’s really good at, like, community? But…” [mumbling in a good imitation of a short-sighted media institution]

Rich: Well it’s the same reason that, I mean, there’s a certain institutional arrogance, I think, that they say, “Wow, wait a minute. We’ve got someone that thinks about things a little differently, and want to reset the game a bit.” Most of the time it doesn’t land well. That’s why they look across the street at a Buzzfeed and they’re like, “What the hell is that?” Right? Because there was somebody walking around Condé or wherever and saying, “I think we should do it this way.” And they just get shit on, and then…it happens elsewhere. That’s why disruption happens across the street, right?

Elizabeth: Yeah I think, also, media companies just don’t have a lot of…incentives toward entrepreneurial thinking.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: At all. You know, they tend to take cues from whatever’s happening on the monetization side —

Paul: That’s so sad when they try to create them, too. [laughter] It’s so tough. And they’re like —

Rich: There are some good ones, even though I think it’s knocked it down a notch? I do think the Atlantic Wire is a success.

Paul: No, I was just over —

Rich: I think Quartz is a success.

Paul: I was over today at Slate, where they have Panoply, the podcast network —

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And that thing is clearly humming, like —

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: They took some chances.

Rich: You’re starting to see, they’re starting to figure it out, and they’re starting to realize, hey listen, we better get going. Time Inc’s got a lot of interesting initiatives. I mean, whether they can execute on them or not is another matter, but they realized, look, we have to do something. We have to reset things here. And go down a path where, originally we thought, we don’t need to, but we actually have to.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: I think there’s more of it today, but that’s because it’s eleventh hour for a lot of them.

Paul: Let’s skip ahead to now, where you have a very little baby at home requiring lots of attention, you have a busy life, you have a broad social network, you were charging people to go to lunch with you for a while. That was — how much did it cost?

Elizabeth: Well, it was like a mini-consulting engagement…

Paul: No, I mean it was legit, but —

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: But what was it?

Elizabeth: It was like $400 bucks.

Paul: That’s a good lunch. Would you pay for lunch or did they pay for lunch?

Elizabeth: They paid for lunch.

Paul: OK, that’s good.

Rich: Whoa.

Paul: Because otherwise it’d be like, let’s go to Per Se and…

Rich: So wait, they could ping you the questions and…

Elizabeth: The way it worked was, there are a lot of clients that I would like to work with but they’re just too small, you know, they didn’t really have budgets.

Rich: Interesting.

Elizabeth: And in a lot of cases, they had like two or three thorny problems they were trying to fix.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And so the deal was, like, you basically for $400 bucks, you get four hours of consulting, one of which is us talking over lunch. You send me some details, we do a call about what you’re thinking about.

Rich: Brilliant.

Elizabeth: And I give you as much feedback and help as I can.

Rich: Did you get this — did you come up with this idea?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: This is an entrepreneur here.

Paul: Well this is the thing, like —

Rich: She productized lunch!

Paul: That’s the thing. I mean, this is why I’m always really interested to see what you’re up to, because you’re reacting by creating businesses and opportunity, instead of throwing your arms up in the air and going, “This change is annoying.” Or…how many blog posts have I seen in my life which are just like, “I don’t have time for all the lunches and free advice.” And you’re like, actually, wait a minute. If we just put this little fiscal threshold in here…how did those engagements go?

Rich: Did you name, did you brand it, by the way? Is it called…?

Elizabeth: I can’t remember if I did.

Paul: Spiers Lunch?

Elizabeth: Yeah. Something like that. [laughter] It worked in a couple of cases. It also blew up with me in one case, because I sort of, like, stupidly agreed to make a couple of follow-up calls to the client, and somehow this guy thought that he had hired me for an entire consulting engagement, and after interviewing several of his employees and, you know, giving him advice, he wanted me to basically go fix the problem for him, and he was like, “Well, I don’t feel like I got my $400 bucks worth.”

Paul: Ughhhhhhhhh.

Elizabeth: I had effectively lost money on that. [laughter]

Paul: Yeah. Yeah.

Rich: Oh boy.

Elizabeth: But also he was just a, kind of…

Rich: Also, eating with someone —

Elizabeth: Over-the-top, and like was sending me nasty emails and…

Paul: Over his $400.

Elizabeth: You know…

Rich: Did you eat together?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: God, isn’t that weird? I mean, in my culture — in many cultures, sitting down and eating with someone…is a very personal, intimate experience.

Paul: No, only the Lebanese do that.

Rich: Oh.

Paul: Everyone else, you just throw the food and —

Rich: Into your mouth.

Paul: Kick the person in the face. [laughter] Yeah, of course. Of course it is.

Rich: So, I mean, you must have had lunches where you’re just staring down at your salad.

Elizabeth: Uh, not really. I mean, most of the people that I talked to were, first of all, entrepreneurs who had small businesses.

Rich: Got it. OK.

Elizabeth: And generally speaking —

Paul: And they’ve got questions for you.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I love talking to those people because, you know, I’m in their shoes as well, and we understand each other —

Paul: Yeah, I’m not going to sit there and, like, freak out over the burger. I’m gonna come with, like, a list of questions and get my money’s worth out of that lunch.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Yeah. Sure.

Paul: What were the questions people would ask? When young entrepreneurs or up and coming entrepreneurs want to ask you things, like, what were they asking you?

Elizabeth: In a lot of cases, they were running websites that were ad-dependent, and they couldn’t — they’d hit a plateau with traffic and didn’t know how to monetize or…you know, they weren’t big enough to have a sales team or do anything besides network-based display ads, and that’s a tough spot to be in, because then you’re really, it’s not even a small business, in a lot of cases. It’s like, a kind of hobby that you might be monetizing, to an extent.

Paul: So I come to you and I’m like, “Hey, Elizabeth, I’ve got this site. Got about a million uniques a month. I can’t make Google Ads work anymore…” What do you really want to say to me at that point? Like, it’s a site about dog care. Should I keep going? [laughter]

Rich: Do you ever tell anybody to shut it down?

Elizabeth: Uh…no, but I’ve never come across anybody who was so delusional about where they were and what their options were that you…needed to do that.

Paul: Oh, OK. I just love that as a concept, of like, I —

Rich: Yeah, it’s really cool.

Paul: I thought it was just, like, the gutsiest move to be like, all right, look, I can’t deal with the demand for people who need my advice…let’s just do it this way.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You know, I would still quietly take coffees and things with people, but there’s like a certain kind of client that if you…a) they don’t really have a budget to utilize you in any meaningful way. But they don’t want to just get coffee with you, and they’re not always…you have to suss out, in some way, whether they’re really going to be respectful of your time.

Paul: Sure.

Elizabeth: And saying, like, I’m gonna charge you something for it is a threshold. Like, it kind of weeds out the people that are gonna just endlessly demand that you do your job for them for free.

Rich: Right.

Paul: It’s transactional, right? And it just, it actually puts you in a simpler place, where you’re like, “I can actually help you here.”

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: You’re not constantly going, like, ugh, another person trying to get free advice. What is this new company?

Rich: Yeah. It’s an awesome name.

Elizabeth: Thank you. It’s an agency with a research focus, so it’s an agency and a research boutique.

Paul: What is it called?

Elizabeth: The Insurrection.

Paul: [super deep voice] The Insurrection. [laughter] It’s just great.

Rich: I’ve seen the trailer.

Paul: [movie trailer voice] In a world…OK so when did this start?

Elizabeth: We started it technically five weeks ago. Talking about it for a few months.

Paul: Oh! Baby.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: Oh, that’s exciting.

Rich: Who’s we?

Elizabeth: So my number-two guy is a guy named Michael Woodsmall who’s worked on and off with me for eight years, and he started out as my internet. And so we’ve worked on a lot of launches together.

Rich: Cool.

Elizabeth: He kind of knows what my process is, and is…

Rich: So elevator — I hate the term. Do you like the term “elevator pitch?”

Paul: I hate the term elevator pitch.

Rich: Well I want, I want to hear…

Paul: All right. Elevator pitch.

Rich: I’m at the cocktail — oh no, cocktail party pitch. I just want to hear —

Paul: Have you ever been — I’ve never been to a cocktail party.

Rich: You’ve probably got the paragraph. Did you do the paragraph in your head?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: OK. I’d love to hear it.

Elizabeth: So we’re an agency and research firm that specializes in virtual reality.

Paul: WHOOOOOOOOA.

Elizabeth: Which is not to say it’s the only thing we do, because it’s not — you know, I have clients that want digital launches in the same way that I’ve done historically, so.

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: So I come to you and I go, “All right. I know we have to deal with this.” Am I a brand? Or am I media organization?

Elizabeth: Uh, right now, both.

Paul: OK. Well actually, they’re all supposed to be both, really. So I come to you and I go, like, “We want to do something special with VR. And I saw that thing they did in the Times. What do I do?”

Elizabeth: I think it depends on your level of sophistication about VR, and also what kind of budgets you’re talking about, and what you want to accomplish.

Paul: I have $44,000. [laughter]

Rich: The Times, we should mention what we mean by the Times.

Paul: Sorry, yeah, The New York Times is doing virtual reality.

Rich: It’s really cool. They’ll send you this cardboard Google VR thing.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And they have an app.

Paul: And you can enter a world where people pay for journalism.

Rich: No, it’s free.

Paul: It’s just, it’s a fantasy world.

Rich: It’s good!

Paul: That was my point there.

Rich: Ohhhh.

Paul: It’s just a bad joke.

Rich: Yeah, sorry. Missed it.

Paul: Do you have to be a paying subscriber?

Rich: I believe it’s free.

Paul: Oh, OK.

Rich: I think you can download the app and there, I think, they’ve only done, like, ten of them.

Paul: It’s great that you and I are sitting here talking about virtual reality when we happen to have this woman who is an expert — [laughter]

Rich: Let’s speak to the Insurrectionist.

Paul: OK, I mean, honestly, we’re in tech. I worked across media. I’m paying attention to VR. But I really don’t even, like, I don’t even know what I should know.

Elizabeth: Yeah, well right now it’s, it’s so new right now, it’s difficult for a lot of people to really understand what the implications are? But there are what I think of as gateway drugs to serious VR, and 360 video is one of those. You know, I think it was smart for the Times to start there. But there are kinds of VR that you see in everyday life, but you just don’t think of them that way. So for instance, Snapchat filters.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: That’s augmented reality, and they’re putting a lot of money, as an institution into augmented reality R&D.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: But if you asked the average Snapchatting 13-year-old whether they have ever experienced augmented reality, they would say no.

Paul: No.

Elizabeth: Because it’s seamless, and you don’t think of it that way.

Rich: Yeah. It just is —

Paul: I just saw —

Rich: It is your phone, or your tech, or whatever.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: It just is what it is.

Paul: I just saw something today where they put a bunch of kids on a school bus, and they had sort of…glass windows that turned to screens dynamically, and the kids weren’t aware. It’s called “Field Trip to Mars.” And they’re just like —

Rich: Whoa.

Paul: Driving around, and so what happens is the bus picks up the vibration and then that shows in the windows when they’re showing —

Rich: Whoa-ho-ho!

Paul: Martian terrain.

Rich: That’s insane.

Paul: And then I’m like, what brand sponsored this, and I couldn’t quite figure it out. So there’s clearly stuff going on.

Rich: Golden Grahams. [laughter]

Paul: From Mars.

Rich: From Mars. Can I share a VR experience and you tell me if I did this wrong?

Elizabeth: Sure.

Rich: So it was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, came out with a VR app. And it’s one of those —

Paul: Yeah, you did this wrong.

Rich: Wait, hold on. It gets better. So I get the app and then I pick a girl. And then when you pick the girl, it tells you, “OK, put your phone in the goggles,” or whatever. And I put them on and it was, it was me in my backyard on a lounge chair, and I could look around and see the backyard and there were other, like, there was backyard furniture and a barbecue. And over to the left was one of the swimsuit models showering in an outdoor shower.

Paul: OK.

Rich: OK. But that was it.

Paul: Is this a dream, or an experience —

Rich: No! No no, and the thing was, I couldn’t — I couldn’t do anything!

Paul: OK.

Rich: So —

Paul: What did you want to do?

Rich: I wanted to get out of my chair!

Paul: OK.

Rich: I want to get up in the backyard and walk over to her and say, “Hey, you look pretty clean.” [laughter] Or something! Right?

Paul: Do you need shampoo? Is that Pantene?

Rich: It was honestly surreal, like, all I could do was look around, and she was this out-of-reach being that…because I was crippled!

Paul: Well, that’s like your whole adolescence, right?

Rich: I was a crippled man!

Paul: You just got to relive the whole thing.

Rich: In the backyard chair, and she was showering 11 feet away, and by the way, wasn’t noticing that I existed, so, it’s not like she was chatting with me while she was showering.

Paul: OK, you’ve told us this. [laughter]

Rich: The other thing is it felt a little like I climbed into her backyard. [laughter] There was that, too. I felt like I was an intruder and she hadn’t noticed me yet. So it was…completely weird. It was really, really weird.

Elizabeth: I think that’s actually one of the challenges of 360 video and documentary format, is that it’s realistic enough that, you know, a) you get into, especially anything that’s, like, a really beautiful landscape, there’s something happening narratively over here, and you’re looking up and down and exploring it, while these people are talking, you almost feel rude, like you’re somebody who walked into somebody else’s conversation. [laughter]

Paul: I have noticed that as well. You’re just, you’re like —

Rich: It’s a little odd.

Paul: It’s just, it’s such a creeper, stalker kind of experience.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah. But I actually, the scenario actually really illustrates the difference between 360 video and, like, full-immersion VR. So let’s imagine that instead of this being 360 video —

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You had, you know, an HTC Vive, and you had full-body haptics, and when you went into this simulation —

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: The woman you were looking at is reacting to you. You know, you look at her, she looks back, she responds to whether or not you’re making gestures toward her, which is how —

Rich: So if I wave, if I wave to her, she’ll wave back.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: For example.

Elizabeth: Yeah. So in full-immersion VR, that’s, you know…

Rich: That’s normal.

Elizabeth: A piece of it.

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Full-immersion —

Paul: Wait, what are haptics?

Elizabeth: So anything that uses gestures to kind of control what’s happening, so you think of —

Paul: Oh, so it’s, like watching —

Elizabeth: VR gloves, or —

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: Things that, you know, there are controllers.

Rich: It can pick up new motions.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: OK.

Rich: Off your body.

Paul: Now how — are you messing around in VR all day? Is this something you’re doing now?

Elizabeth: No. I would if I could, but I still have to bring in business. [laughter]

Paul: If I come to the office and you’re, like, sitting at the desk, are there goggles on?

Elizabeth: No.

Paul: Awwww. That’s so disappointing. I want to go —

Elizabeth: I mean, I feel like that’s the sort of vision of, for instance, the people who are developing the Hololens.

Paul: Right.

Elizabeth: Because Microsoft tends to build things that are, that can be used in an enterprise basis, and…they imagine that, you know, the three of us could have a meeting where we’re all in three different states —

Rich: And we’re all three-dimensional to one another —

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Yeah. I’ve heard about that. You know what you could do, is a Spiers Lunch VR app. You could have lunch with her. [laughter]

Paul: Should it cost —

Rich: For 50 — $50.

Paul: No! It probably should cost more.

Rich: More? I mean it’s not a lot to look, I mean, pay attention to her. You’re gonna look around the room and just stare at the restaurant?

Paul: If it’s got haptics, you’re gonna touch the fork.

Rich: You are gonna touch the fork.

Paul: Yeah…

Rich: You’re gonna pound your fist on the table.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: You’ve got frustration with your business.

Paul: There’s some real stuff here that we have to work out.

Rich: Right.

Paul: It’s just, literally like a half-million dollar development budget just to get the polygons right. [laughter] And then, for, you know, and you’re going to charge $400 for the lunch? How do we get past the part where brands come to you and go, “I want them to feel like they’re touching a Snickers bar.” [laughter] How do we get, like, because that’s what always happens, it’s just like, the most obvious, like, blatant…”Let’s put them in the middle of the action and they can climb a mountain and at the top of the mountain there’s a Dell computer!”

Rich: Right. Timberland boots gets in touch with you.

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Because people need to feel like they’re mountain climbing.

Paul: Do they get in touch with you and say, “We need to figure out VR,” or do they get in touch with you and say, “We want to do this mountain climbing app.”

Elizabeth: No. Two things happen. They say, you know, “Here’s the thrust of what our campaign is for this year. These are the themes. We don’t know what to do with it. What would you suggest?” And then, you know, we’re in the process of, like, suggesting VR to them, usually throughout.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: And in a lot of cases, depending on who’s making the decision about what’s gonna be done, you know, if you can come up with something that’s edgier and more experimental, that’s generally a good thing. Somebody can take it back to their CMO and it checks a box.

Paul: How do you staff a VR project?

Elizabeth: Right now we just use freelancers. I mean, there aren’t that many agencies that just specialize in it, so depending on what kind of VR you’re doing, you need different kinds of specialists. So we have a network of people.

Paul: Is it time, for people listening to this, should they be like, should they be thinking about this? Should they be, like, looking at this and getting into it?

Elizabeth: I think so.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: I mean, you know, our long game is —

Rich: That’s your premise, right?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: You think this is gonna blow up.

Elizabeth: I do. You know, I’m not a demonstrative person, as Paul can attest, and I tend to be very skeptical about things, but I, you know, I told a friend the other day, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a technology since I saw my first browser, in college.

Rich: Wow.

Paul: OK. So you’re, as someone who has pretty good instincts about how this stuff goes, demonstrably so, you are, you’re all in on VR?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: Any particular kind of viewer? Is there anything where you’re going, they’re doing it exactly right?

Elizabeth: No, because I don’t think anybody’s doing it exactly right, you know?

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: And things are happening so fast, I think, you know, if you’d asked people in the industry about a year ago when they thought there would be a material consumer adoption of VR, they would have said 2025. And that just keeps inching closer.

Paul: Oh, OK.

Rich: I got to imagine real estate is gonna just take it over. Like, I want to walk through the kitchen for a real estate listing. Like, they have to have views…

Elizabeth: That’s already happening.

Rich: I can imagine, to have that.

Paul: That makes sense.

Elizabeth: You know, really high-end luxury properties.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: That’s such a natural start-up, too, like —

Rich: Drones are used for real estate, and…

Paul: Yeah, you just go to VCs and you’re like, “VR. Real estate.” And VCs are like, “Yeah allll riiiight! Yeeeeah!” And they’re all like —

Rich: Let’s get that breakfast!

Paul: They’re all around that fire in the backyard that they all have. So right now, you have kind of, like, I’ve noticed you have a kind of creative mode, and there’s also a money mode. And this sounds a little bit like you’re in the money mode now. You’re like, OK, brands, people are gonna show up, they need to spend some money, figure this out, as part of their longer term strategies. It’s gonna go back to the chief marketing officer and so on. Is there editorial stuff that’s gonna come out of this world in a big way? Are you like, ready for…

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think that, that’s another but separate reason why it’s exciting to me. I think it’s really easy to do whimsical high-concept stuff in VR, in a way that you can’t do with anything 2D.

Paul: Like kind of Alice in Wonderland-y, like…

Elizabeth: Yeah, I mean, if you look at, or and there are so many things that just cross genres, so right now if you get a Vive, it’s gonna come packaged with a few games, including one called Job Simulator, which I’m not sure if you guys have seen that?

Paul: No, no.

Elizabeth: It’s basically, it’s hard to define, is it a game or is it a comedy? It’s intentionally animated in such a way where, you know, the animations look blocky, like they were…made in AutoCAD —

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: In 1988. But it’s entirely comedy-driven. There’s no…there’s nothing you can really win. You just pick a job and they show the most…almost Office Space-y, abysmal version of doing it. And it’s just really funny.

Rich: Sounds fun.

Elizabeth: The whole point of it is just to…

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Laugh.

Paul: So you just will hang out in that experience —

Rich: This is where we are. I mean, it’s like the early websites, right? They were just kind of like, what did you do here?

Paul: Well there was a variety, right? Like, the guy who was really into mushrooms and went all in and shared it.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: So it sounds like there will be some of that, like…

Rich: Yeah. It’s early days.

Paul: A lot of —

Rich: The pros haven’t showed up yet.

Paul: It’s going to be a lot of aquarium apps, I’m assuming. I’m assuming, like, a lot of —

Rich: A lot of underwater.

Paul: 3D fish kind of things?

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You see a lot of, like, 360 video underwater, because —

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: People just want to see…whatever they can’t see.

Rich: They want to go underwater. [laughter]

Paul: All right.

Rich: Can we talk, are we allowed to talk about the Gawker…

Elizabeth: Sure.

Rich: Well you’re not connected to it in any way at this point.

Elizabeth: No.

Rich: What’s your, what’s your take on it, the whole Gawker, Peter Thiel…

Elizabeth: I wrote a little bit about it. It’s funny, whenever it came out that Thiel was backing it, and I had sort of mental list of who I thought it could be.

Rich: Did you?

Elizabeth: He was my first choice.

Rich: Oh, so you had a theory that somebody was backing it.

Elizabeth: Well, Denton had that theory, and initially I didn’t buy it, but when the thing came out about —

Rich: Oh, interesting.

Elizabeth: Hogan taking the one provision off the table that would’ve allowed Gawker to use their insurance to pay for it…

Paul: That’s the thing, they wouldn’t let them use their liability insurance.

Rich: I see.

Paul: Yeah, and that was a crazy move, because Hogan could’ve possibly made more money, right?

Elizabeth: He would’ve made more money.

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And so then you say, like, OK, this is not…

Rich: This is weird.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Yeah. Got it. So you’re thinking, OK, there’s some, somebody’s pulling strings here.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: And you made a point in your piece on Medium that it should give anybody who is thinking or excited about working with Peter Thiel kind of a major case of the willies.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: Because he’s terrifying.

Elizabeth: You know, I find him interesting, but I also just thought, yeah, I called some of my friends who are in the Valley and people who’ve worked with him, people who were in some cases funded by him — just to get a sense of, you know, what people were thinking and…I wouldn’t say that people are necessarily, in an overt way, afraid of him, but there’s definitely reluctance to…when people would tell me things, they’d be like, “Well, you know, a lot of people are really, are not supportive of this,” but there’s zero incentive to say that.

Paul: Oh yeah. Sure.

Elizabeth: And I get that. But I do think it has a silencing effect, that’s disturbing to me, and personally, you know, as somebody who’s out raising money — like right now I’m doing a friends and family round, but next year we’ll be doing an A round, and…

Paul: For the Insurrection.

Elizabeth: Yeah. And I had a friend who, you know, is close to Thiel who said, he was kind of laughing when he said it, but he said, “You know, you should Gawker off your CV.”

Paul: Yeah…

Elizabeth: And I said, “Well, you know, there’d be no point in doing that. It’s not like people can’t google.” Also I just thought, well, if it really is a problem for some people, then that’s probably a decent screening mechanism. [laughter]

Rich: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Wow.

Paul: Yeah, and I think the term you used was “nuclear.” That it was…

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: He could go off at any moment…

Elizabeth: But it was so wildly out of proportion — and I should say, I’m a, I strongly believe that what he’s really angry about is not that Gawker outed him, and you know, there are a lot of people who would dispute that that’s even what they did. You know, I think he was very unhappy with the Clarium reporting —

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And I think it probably forced some redemptions.

Rich: The what reporting?

Paul: He had a hedge fund that didn’t do so well.

Rich: Oh.

Paul: And they made fun of him. I mean, just, it was very Gawker tone.

Rich: Made fun of — they make fun of everybody!

Paul: No, but…I mean, who knows. Who can look inside of his mind? But yeah, I would imagine that being publicly humiliated for business failure is, is more upsetting to him.

Elizabeth: Well also, you know, he wouldn’t have any moral high ground against Gawker for that, because it was all pretty straightforward, and it was just standard — I mean, tonally, it was snarky, but…yeah, standard business reporting, and they weren’t the only people reporting it at the time. I don’t know. So I think…he talks about the outing because it’s kind of the only thing that they wrote about him where you go, “Eh, maybe they shouldn’t have done that.” You know?

Paul: Right, right. Well also, it’s also…he sort of alluded, when the Times came and talked to him too, kind of there were other people in the room, virtually or on the phone, who were like, “You gotta do it.” And you just immediately go down a list, because Gawker had a target.

Rich: That’s the thing.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I feel like I, I also have a list of who that person was. [laughter]

Paul: Right.

Rich: Yeah. I mean, you’ve got to imagine, after the second bottle of wine —

Paul: I mean, they made fun —

Rich: The Gawker’s garbage conversation kicks in.

Paul: They made fun of, like…yeah, I guess you’re right. Like, you’re around the fire, you’ve heard your pitches for the day, you drink that second bottle of $400 wine, which is actually just the cost of a nice lunch with Elizabeth Spiers.

Rich: Right. [laughter]

Paul: And you open that, you open that wine and you’re just like, “Someone’s gotta do something about that.”

Rich: “They’re garbage.”

Paul: “They’re just monsters. They don’t respect anything that we’re doing.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: “And here we are, driving the entire global economy.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: “And some little blogger with a text box that we probably actually helped create can’t…”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: “…just get in here and…”

Rich: Can’t behave himself.

Paul: “Can’t ruin my day.”

Rich: Right.

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I also wonder if, you know, I think sometimes, whenever, especially when you have successful people who are charismatic in the way that Thiel is, you probably didn’t have to throw a rock very far to find 30 people who, if he suggested it would be like, “Yes. You should do it.” Just because they’re…

Rich: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Suck ups, and you know…

Rich: “Go, Peter.” Yeah.

Paul: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I think people like that end up surrounded by yes-men, even if they, that’s not their intention, you know.

Paul: It’s such a bizarre — I mean, he’s clearly so smart, like he’s clearly so freakin’ smart, and then this whole thing…it’s just, the whole narrative is so surreal. What do you feel like watching something like that? You were intimately involved with, connected with, in lots of different ways, but now you’re from a distance. What’s that like, just seeing all this news come out?

Elizabeth: I mean, it’s bizarre, you know, like, I…there are times when it’s still mind-blowing to me that Gawker’s a giant company. Because when I was doing it, I was literally sitting on my couch, on a shitty laptop, and…

Paul: Sure.

Elizabeth: That was it. Like, there was no company. I didn’t have colleagues.

Paul: Gina Trapani works at our company, and you know, she was part of original Kinja team, and it feels like it was like two tables.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: And now it’s hundreds of people on Fifth Avenue.

Elizabeth: It’s also if you’d asked seven-year-old me if I would’ve envisioned working for, much less, you know, starting a company that would be sued by Hulk Hogan in 2014 or whenever the initial suit was —

Rich: It’s crazy.

Elizabeth: I wouldn’t have known how to process it. You know, like, I grew up with Hogan as, you know, the big pop-culture idol of my childhood life, and both of my brothers were huge fans.

Paul: Our childhood was Hulk — Hulkmania. [laughter] It was just…yeah. I remember seeing eight-year-olds, you know, striking that pose. All right —

Rich: We can’t end on that note.

Paul: No, we’re not ending on that.

Rich: We’re not gonna end on the image of Hulk Hogan…

Paul: So I have two questions —

Rich: Posing.

Paul: The first question I have is if I want to get into VR and I’m like a media person, aside from calling you, which we’ll tell people how to get in touch with you with the next question… What should we — is there, like, a trade magazine, like Occulus Today or is there…?

Elizabeth: I actually think if you haven’t done full-immersion VR, you should go find the most extreme version of it that you can do, and which right now if you live in New York, there’s a Utah-based company called The Void…

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: That does, they call themselves, sort of, a VR amusement park company.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: And they’re doing an execution for Sony around the Ghostbusters movie, where you can go to Madame Tussaud’s and you can buy a ticket — it’s like $40 bucks a ticket or something — and they outfit you in, like, full-body VR —

Rich: Oh wow.

Elizabeth: And you run around apocalypse New York shooting ghosts.

Rich: Whoa.

Paul: It’s intense?

Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, that’s the kind of thing where if you want to understand the world of difference between 360 video and full immersion, go do something like that.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Is there a sort of news source that people go to in this world?

Elizabeth: There are some trades.

Paul: OK.

Elizabeth: We’re actually launching a publication on Medium in July called “There Is Only R.”

Paul: I kind of thought that I was gonna get this answer [laughter], I was just kind of suspicious. OK, “There Is Only R.”

Elizabeth: Yeah. It’s a reference to, when people talk about the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality and mixed reality. You know, for the user, if they’re at all convincing, it kind of doesn’t matter, because there is only reality. There’s just…the version that, you know, you buy into, so.

Paul: All right, I will read that. That sounds awesome. We’ll make sure there’s a link to that connected to this, too. If I want to get in touch with you and talk about virtual reality, because —

Rich: Or have lunch.

Paul: Or have lunch. [laughter] What do I do?

Elizabeth: Just email me. It’s [email protected].

Paul: OK. And are there actual offices yet, or is that coming?

Elizabeth: Yeah, they are actually literally across the street, like I could point to our building —

Paul: Oh, we’re right here —

Elizabeth: On 26th and Broadway. So.

Paul: OK.

Rich: Cool.

Paul: So people who want to understand this new world of virtual reality should actually just go ahead, get in touch.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Paul: OK. And those —

Elizabeth: And just go do it if you have an opportunity. Go try it.

Paul: OK. All right, well this is great. Elizabeth, thank you for coming.

Rich: Thank you. This was great.

Elizabeth: Thank you guys for having me.

Paul: We’ll talk to you soon. Especially now that we know you’re in the neighborhood. [laughter]

Rich: Across the street.

Paul: All right. Buy-bye.

Elizabeth: Bye.

Paul: Well you know that was a curveball.

Rich: I just want to fly around your head.

Paul: Well you can do that.

Rich: Virtually.

Paul: I think we’d have to go call a consultant and get them to help us.

Rich: Mmmmmmmmm…yes.

Paul: Yeah. So that — and that would be Elizabeth.

Rich: The Insurrection.

Paul: That’s a good career pivot right there.

Rich: It’s a fun name for a company, too.

Paul: It is a good, like, I work at the Insurrection. That is great.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: So that was cool. We really want to thank Elizabeth Spiers for coming by and talking to us about her varied career and how she does her work.

Rich: Gutsy. I give her, that’s the word that came to mind.

Paul: Yeah, she’s just somebody who, I just am impressed by someone who’s, like, there’s a problem here. I’m gonna create a social structure —

Rich: That’s awesome.

Paul: That will address that.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: That’s really — I’m not good at that.

Rich: Most aren’t good at that.

Paul: No, it’s a really impressive skill. So Rich, this has beeeeeeeeen…. Track Chaaaan-ges.

Rich: What a name, what a great name for a podcast.

Paul: You came up with that name.

Rich: We came up with it together.

Paul: You came up with that name. It was a good name. We came up with, it was on a list of names, and you came up with it, and everyone was like, “That’s the best name. All of Paul’s names can go in the garbage.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: One thing that shouldn’t go in the garbage is…your —

Rich: Five-star ratings!

Paul: [laughter] Track Changes on iTunes or whatever. Don’t unsubscribe. Just let this pile up —

Rich: Let it happen.

Paul: In your inbox, and maybe one day you’ll come back to it. Just let us sort of be there as another thing giving you guilt in the giant media sphere that is your new home. My name is Paul Ford.

Rich: Rich Ziade.

Paul: We are Postlight’s co-founders. We’re a nice company, get in touch with us. You know what we do by now. We build —

Rich: [email protected].

Paul: [email protected]. We’ve been getting great emails lately.

Rich: Mmmm hmmm.

Paul: So get in touch, let us know anything you need, we are here for you.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: Thanks.

Rich: Buh-bye!