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In February, online video startup Revver, which had raised just under $13m in venture capital funding, was sold for an amount reportedly in the "low single digit millions".

It had previously been shopping itself for a rumored $300,000 to $500,000.

The latest VC-backed Web 2.0 startup to seek a fire sale didn't get as lucky as Revver.

PodTech, a startup that initially hoped to become the "NPR of podcasting" and eventually moved on to video focused on the technology industry, has been sold to communications technology firm ViewPartner for "less than half a million dollars" according to VentureBeat.

PodTech is a particularly interesting case study because of the people involved with the company over the course of its short history.

Run by well-connected Silicon Valley entrepreneur John Furrier, the company was quick to recruit some big names in social media.

Two of them are familiar to readers of my blogs; Robert Scoble, now of FastCompany.tv, and Jeremiah Owyang, now of Forrester Research.

When Owyang announced that he had joined PodTech in November 2006, he was very excited:

"A few weeks ago, I was chatting with John Furrier (Podtech CEO and Business Podcasting early adopter) about how it was interesting the direction that Podtech was headed being a place where news is breaking.

"With great pride, I’m happy to announce that later this month, I’ll be starting a new role at Podtech as Director of Corporate Media Strategy.

"I’m hoping I can be a community resource to companies that want not only to understand 'What' and 'Why' to use social media but to help answer 'HOW' to deploy."

Unfortunately, while Owyang and other members of the Web 2.0 community had high hopes for PodTech, it didn't take long to see that it was headed somewhere - but not quite where believers thought.

Less than a year later after he joined PodTech, Owyang left for greener pastures at Forrester Research.

Robert Scoble, however, was still around. When Fake Steve Jobs reported that PodTech was shutting its doors in October 2007, Robert Scoble rushed to defend the company:

"It’s amazing. A fake blogger, Fake Steve Jobs, reports that PodTech is closing down. This is total, 100% bull####. Not even deserving of a response. I’m not leaving PodTech. When, er if, I am you’ll read it here on my blog."

He added:

"There are more than 30 people working at PodTech and I only bring in a small percentage of revenues (and my show is highly profitable)."

Apparently not profitable enough.

In January 2008, Scoble announced that he was moving to FastCompany.tv. And following the official demise of PodTech, he couldn't help but reveal all the cool things he learned.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20 and it would be unfair of me to rub too much salt in the wounds of PodTech and the people who were involved with it.

But I can't help but think that for all of the social media "stars" who were involved with the company, its failure casts doubt on the hype they promulgate.

While most new businesses fail (and there's nothing to be ashamed of when you take a risk in starting one), I find it interesting that some of social media's biggest proponents apparently couldn't do enough to get a Web 2.0 startup of their own to work.

After all, Owyang and Scoble essentially earn their paychecks by informing and advising others about Web 2.0. As proponents of social media, they frequently extol the virtues of Web 2.0 tools and often tell companies that involvement with social media is a prerequisite in today's market.

The collapse of PodTech and the almost complete "vaporization" of the $7.5m it had raised from investors, in my opinion, does serve as a partial reflection on them.

I respect that they were not top-level PodTech executives and that the intimate details about PodTech's operations are known only to those who were involved with the company's operations.

But I feel that a fair criticism is to note that very few of Web 2.0's most ardent proponents have actually started a highly-successful (read: highly-profitable) Web 2.0 business of their own.

In this case, PodTech seems like it provided the perfect opportunity for Owyang and Scoble and I'd be surprised if they both didn't have some ownership (i.e. stock options).

At the end of the day, I suppose I'm simply hoping that one day we'll find a member of the Social Media Hype Club who can boast:

"I started a self-sustaining company based on Web 2.0 and social media that makes me millions in profits each year."

If that ever happens, I just might take the conversation seriously. As it stands now, PodTech's ability to take $7.5mn and turn it into $500,000 is yet another example that in Web 2.0, alchemy is all about taking gold and turning it into lead.

For PodTech's investors, the lesson is quite clear - if you want to make a small fortune in Web 2.0, you have to start with a larger fortune.

Mission accomplished.

Drama 2.0

Published 29 July, 2008 by Drama 2.0

237 more posts from this author

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David Petherick

Yet another [insert target here] bites the dust.

"The Social Media Hype Club" is an interesting phrase to use. It rather fools the reader into associating Social Media with Hype, and with an undefined Club or evil Cabal, from whose membership we are of course excluded. Nice technique.

Using the term Web 2.0 to cover everything you write about is also rather 'tar them with the same brush' as a technique, because the term is so wide-ranging it has become entirely meaningless. But that works OK, so it'll fit here.

The classic phrase here though, is "its failure casts doubt on the hype they promulgate". Just a wonderful example of what I call Predicate NewSpeak. It associates two separate and unrelated concepts, (Failure of Podnet. Poor Efforts of "Stars") and uses language to cause the reader to form an entirely negative association. Thus, it is not news coverage or reporting, it is hype. Nasty! And they do not publish or broadcast - they promulgate. Ewww, sounds dirty! And it's really their fault that Podnet failed - because they are all a bunch of failures those hyping social media fan-boys who make so much noise. Yeah.

And of course "quotations" are always a great way to layer on more poison, because they are all neatly unaccredited. So when you say "stars" you imply of course that these people think they are stars, and constantly regard themselves as such, and demand to be treated like Brangelinas. Oh yeah, they think they are Royalty, those arrogant SOBs. And because a company sought them out to provide content, and that company failed, they are all guilty of chicanery, and of course they all jumped ship like rats at the first signs of water coming in over the bilges. See how easy it is to write in this mode - it just keeps flowing...

Finally, I expect a blog that uses the first person "I" to have a name at the end of it. At least those "stars" like Scoble and Owyang have the guts to sign their name to their work. Nobody can take your conversation seriously, 'Drama 2.0', because you hide behind a risible nom-de-plume.

"Businessman, technology pioneer, media mogul, marketing visionary, scientist, artist, philosopher, diplomat, mentor, confidant, connoisseur, adventurer, lover, fighter, womanizer, son, father (currently under dispute), friend. Drama 2.0 is the Internet’s version of Keyser Söze." That is quoted from http://www.drama20show.com/about/

over 8 years ago

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Will McInnes

Like David Pethrick, I personally have grown tired of the 'we hate this' or 'FAIL' mentality in our brilliant vibrant community and tired of the hatchet jobs on committed, 'make a go of it' entrepreneurs out there, but I'm afraid I also agree with the blog post's author that much of what we read about Web 2 is so breathless and hyped, but the reality much harder to apply and prove and succeed with.

It would be much more fun if we knew who was writing though.

over 8 years ago

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Mike Butcher

This is a really dumb article. PodTech was not a Web 2.0 company, it was effectively an old fashioned broadcaster, shoveling an old business model onto the Web and thinking that because it was on the Web it would work better there. Web 2.0 companies succeed because they creates lots and lots of clever data which does various things - targets ads better, captures audiences better, etc etc. Lumping PodTech in with Web 2.0 is like comparing The Times to Digg. FAIL.

over 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Mike - I hear you but Podtech certainly positioned itself as a 2.0 company, and there are 73,000 pages on Google that have taken that idea to heart. Anyway, aren't you meant to be on holiday? ; )

@Will - it's the nature of the beast I'm afraid. PodTech received a lot of great coverage when it bagged Scoble and its funding, but it has now done a Pets.com (albeit in a much, much smaller market). Where did all that money go? Feels a bit like 2002 sometimes...

@David - I keep telling Drama to take off the mask but the fact that he doesn't is of no real consequence. 'George Orwell' was a pseudonym, was it not?

over 8 years ago

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PodTech Employee

Hey, I'm a former PodTech employee, and there are many other well known that were there that you forgot to mention:

Steve Gillmor --Now at Techcrunch, he was the Executive of the Network, he's been in this space just as long as the others
Irina Slutsky + Eddie Codel -- well known video bloggers
Valerie Cunningham: Now at Conversation Group (Social media)
Also part of the network was: Jason Calacanis, Loren Feldman, Jennifer Jones
The entire Executive Team: CEO, COO, VP Engineering, for a total of 30 others

So before you chastise Scoble and Owyang, realize there were many others there, don't just simply bang on those two alone, get your story straight.

over 8 years ago

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David Petherick

@Chris said "I keep telling Drama to take off the mask but the fact that he doesn't is of no real consequence. 'George Orwell' was a pseudonym, was it not?"

Wearing a mask and using a pseudonym are quite different things, and I think it is of real consequence, because when someone can write anonymously, without a name, it removes personal responsibility, because there is no personal comeback.

George Orwell was indeed a pseudonym. But then, Eric Arthur Blair was an author who used that NAME consistently for essays, criticism and books, and he was known, addressed, and referred to by that name. I suggest you look up the dictionary for PSEUDONYM. 'Drama 2.0' is not a NAME - not the word or words that a person is known, addressed, or referred to. So it's not a pseudonym - it's more akin to a kid's halloween mask.

Now, I can't recall seeing many books or blogs or white papers written by 'Drama 2.0' or seeing that name tag at a conference or speaking at a business event, so I can't take the views seriously or give them any credibility, because the character they have created could just as easily change their opinion the next day, or start an argument with themselves on their blog. I prefer to deal with grown up people who use their real names in business.

over 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@David - we're getting into semantics now but we refer to him around these parts as 'Drama', so it works perfectly well as a name. Also, if a pseudonym isn't a mask then what is it exactly? Here's that definition you wanted me to look up, keyword being 'conceal': "A nom de plume or fictitious name, especially one used by an author to conceal his identity".

I prefer dealing with people who use their real names too. I guess in this case we are vouching for Drama's credibility. I chose to employ Drama after becoming aware of his blog and comments in the community, and while I don't agree with everything he's written I do think he's consistent in his views.

I'm sure that he hasn't damaged our credibility, though you're perfectly entitled to think otherwise.

over 8 years ago

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David Petherick

Ach - semantics - what does it really mean anyway? ;-)

People without faces can't earn credibility because we don't know if they are talking from front-line experience, or from an armchair.

I think you'd have more credibility if your bloggers all used real names, that's my point, Chris.

over 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

I'd genuinely prefer it that way too, and Drama is the exception rather than the rule on that front, thankfully ; )

over 8 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

David: I appreciate your perspective and you have a respectable position, but lets put semantics aside. Here are the facts:

1. The questions about the true substance and value to be found in Web 2.0 and social media in general have been raised by many.

2. People like Robert Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang are ardent promoters of Web 2.0 and social media. At Forrester, Owyang's promotion of social media may influence companies' decision-making and spending when it comes to Web 2.0/social media initiatives.

3. As Chris pointed out, PodTech received a lot of positive press (if you're uncomfortable with the word "hype"). As "PodTech Employee" points out, it hired a slew of people who are well-recognized (read "stars") in the social media community.

4. Because of this, and the amount of money it raised compared to the price it sold for, PodTech's failure was therefore one that rightfully received a lot of attention.

Just as the Financial Times recently pointed out that "Web 2.0 fails to produce cash," I felt it fair to point out that so many of the proponents of social media ("The Social Media Hype Club") have in many ways failed to prove social media's viability.

While I noted that most businesses failed "and there's nothing to be ashamed of when you take a risk in starting one," when a social media company that hired so many prominent industry "personalities" has such a prominent failure, I think it's worth asking the question - what gives?

While assembling an all-star team doesn't mean you're going to win an Olympic gold, if you don't see any irony in the failure of a social media startup that recruited a team of the "top" people in the "industry," many of whom in their current jobs promote social media as a game-changer for businesses, I'm afraid we simply have a different perspective.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course.

I would, however, ask you to answer the following rhetorical question - if I told you that I could show you how to make millions in the stock market yet you learned that I had never made any money of consequence in the stock market myself, what would your impression be?

Let's move on to my identity.

Frankly, I can tell from your comments that you're an intelligent, thoughtful person. Therefore it surprises me that you seem to equate a "name tag" with credibility.

When the San Francisco Chronicle's Al Saracevic featured my "brilliant comment/post" in September 2006, he wrote:

"Well said, Drama. Go to Tech Chronicles online to read the rest of what this person has to say. Well argued and reasoned all around."

Did Al need to know my name to print some of my commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle? No. What I wrote simply resonated.

As this post did with Will McInnes, who, while apparently not in favor of my tone, agreed "that much of what we read about Web 2 is so breathless and hyped, but the reality much harder to apply and prove and succeed with."

At the end of the day, would you suggest that Samuel Clemens, who often wrote things that were unpopular during his time, made less valid points because he wrote under the name Mark Twain?

Of course not.

Just as Twain was a pseudonym (dictionary definition: "a fictitious name used by an author to conceal his or her identity") for Clemens, Drama 2.0 is a pseudonym for _______ ____.

The bottom line is that logic and reason don't require a "name tag." You don't need to know who I am to evaluate my arguments using logic and reason - you either buy into them or you think they're hogwash. And if they're hogwash, you should be able to demonstrate that using the same logic and reason you think they lacked.

Frankly, I'm a little confused by your comment:

"Now, I can't recall seeing many books or blogs or white papers written by 'Drama 2.0' or seeing that name tag at a conference or speaking at a business event, so I can't take the views seriously or give them any credibility, because the character they have created could just as easily change their opinion the next day, or start an argument with themselves on their blog. I prefer to deal with grown up people who use their real names in business."

First, you know I write a blog at http://www.drama20show.com/ because you linked to it. Hell, it's been linked to in a post on The Next Web Blog and apparently one of your colleagues (Boris) reads it:

http://thenextweb.org/2008/05/30/the-state-of-enterprise-20-and-why-we-need-new-stories/
http://www.drama20show.com/2008/06/10/apple-is-to-geeks-what-breasts-are-to-men/ (see comments)

Second, your perspective seems to be based on the fallacy of "appeal to authority." If I had written a book or a white paper or had been a keynote speaker at a business event, would that guarantee that my arguments are sound? Of course not.

I certainly hope that you don't believe blindly everything you read in a book or hear at a business event to be valid simply because the source has a name tag and some perceived credibility.

In fact, I might argue that since I'm quite detached from your "industry" (my Internet ventures are focused on revenue) and have no vested interest in the success or failure of "Web 2.0" and "social media" (as you can probably ascertain from my posts), my sober commentary on it is more likely to be intellectually honest than the frothy commentary "promulgated" by the very people who rely on Web 2.0/social media to pay their bills.

Frankly, I think if you did a little research on "Drama 2.0," you'd see that I have maintained consistent positions since 2006 and that my opinions are well-respected. And if that falls short in your estimation and you need a dash of "Credibility 2.0" - consider that in 2007 Michael Arrington asked me if I wanted to blog for TechCrunch.

Finally, I'm also a little confused at your comment that "without a name, it removes personal responsibility, because there is no personal comeback."

What exactly do you mean by "personal comeback"? An ad hominem attack perhaps?

Bottom line: if I'm an idiot, the flawed logic evident in my writing should be all the ammunition you need to prove it.

Instead, you've chosen to focus on my identity and judging from a Google search, I can only assume you're upset because I'm critical of the industry you're involved with and some of the prominent people in it.

over 8 years ago

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Dave Burckhard

I've been reading a bunch of news and analysis on PodTech and how and why it failed. Much of it has to do with the personalities of its most salient employees and it hasn't been with a small bit of glee that many make their reports. While it's true that the personalities that were the faces of PodTech may have rubbed some folks wrongly, hasn't the Silicon Valley seen a huge number of business rise on hype? Many have failed but a bunch have succeeded. I certainly expect that the principals of a startup speak nothing but success.

But let's get to the meat of this story. Web 2.0, its technologies and its practices, are here to stay and will only propagate. The fact that individual users and individual organizations are failing to use them or failing to appropriately exploit Web 2.0 is nothing surprising. I am old enough to remember back when company officials at the very large corporation in which I worked were wringing hands and fretting about whether or not to adopt this new "email" thing. Today email delivers tons of spam and is fraught with malicious code. Has email failed?

Indeed, we find that interest and use of Web 2.0 is very much alive and increasing. Businesses are very much tuned into the advantages of Web 2.0 and especially podcasting. They don't see podcasting as a revenue generating mechanism per se but they see its advantages as a communications medium with at least a few of them replacing traditional media for podcasting. They are using podcasting to reach employees, sales force, partners, investors and customers. Furthermore, most of the podcasts we produce will never be seen by the public for what should be obvious reasons. Podcasting, as a medium, is hardly failing in that respect. Podcast companies and podcasters will fail just as any other for profit ventures will fail.

Considering the reality and the growth of the use of Web 2.0 constituents, namely blogs, wikis, mashups, social networking, and podcasting, surely there will be companies that see profit advantages and have and will succeed. To even begin to think that all will succeed, hyped up or not, is foolish. To point out a particular business who didn't make it is like coming across a shirt you've only worn once. Did the shirt fail? Does it even matter? Is it even worth mentioning?

Now if somehow the PodTech celebs had rubbed the author the wrong way, this article is logical. I would have preferred an ending that stated clearly: "A company hoping to exploit podcasting failed and its failure taints the perception of Web 2.0 as a trend," now THAT would make sense to me. Maybe I was just looking for a happy ending.

Dave Burckhard
National Podcasting System

over 8 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Dave: if you've read my posts for any length of time, you'll know that PodTech is certainly not the first (and won't be the last) Web 2.0 startup that I've critiqued.

In addition to discussing the woes of individual startups, I've also discussed the woes of Web 2.0 and social media in general. For instance, my post tomorrow will be about a recent survey that revealed that a majority of online communities set up by companies have less than 500 active members.

If you read some of my past posts, you'll also know that I haven't completely dismissed the value of Web 2.0 tools, although I have noted that these tools do not seem to support self-sustaining standalone businesses at the level hoped for.

In my opinion, it all comes down to expectations and the expectations for Web 2.0 and social media have been set far too high. The reality of the situation is that Web 2.0/social media proponents have been trying to sell Hondas as if they're Ferraris.

Obviously, when their customers ask why the cars they've purchased aren't performing like Ferraris, there is no good answer short of an admission that they were sold Hondas. Unfortunately, I've yet to see a "movement" within the Web 2.0/social media "community" to acknowledge that perhaps they overpromised and underdelivered.

As any good businessman/salesman knows, overpromising and underdelivering is a cardinal sin and when violated, there is no happy ending.

over 8 years ago

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Current PodTech Employee

The fact is PodTech had a business and a vision. It was making money before it took venture capital. The company did some good work in the market.

The company failed because the venture investors replaced management with $2.5m in capital in May of 2007. After that new management didn't know what to do and sales didn't materialize. USVP and Venrock would not fund the company any more. Bank took over the assets and then a buyer took the assets from the bank.

Podcasting and video social media is a growing market. We are now working for a new company.

In the end the real story is about a venture deal gone bad.

over 8 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Current PodTech Employee: if PodTech was doing so well, why did it raise outside capital? I've never heard of a VC holding a gun to an entrepreneur's head and forcing him to raise money. In fact, good VCs encourage entrepreneurs to think twice before accepting their money.

Bottom line: as much as I dislike VCs, you can't blame them for the failure of a business because smart entrepreneurs don't take VC money unless they absolutely need it.

I'm sure there are dozens of ways to analyze PodTech's failure (Scoble has posted some of his thoughts) but at the end of the day the point of this post was not to pin "blame" on anyone; it was to highlight the irony I see in the fact that PodTech, was in many ways, an All-Star team of Web 2.0 and social media personalities and yet this All-Star team couldn't apparently find a way to make the company work.

Given that so many of those personalities now continue to promote the notion that Web 2.0 and social media are crucial areas for businesses to invest, I simply lament the fact that few of them can really point to the kind of *personal* success with Web 2.0/social media that PodTech could potentially have provided them with.

Again, if I told you that I could show you the secrets to making millions trading stocks but you learned that I had never made any money of consequence in the stock market, I'd expect some skepticism.

I wish PodTech the best of luck under its new ownership.

over 8 years ago

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Podtech Employee

I'm the former Podtech employee on comment 5.

From our viewpoint, this was not a bad venture deal gone bad. This was really about poor vision and execution. The management didn't have a clear direction and the company was a many headed hydra. Hard to go anywhere when everyone is paddling a different direction. Since I don't agree with "Current PodTech Employee" shows some of the rough spots that we had internally.

Regarding Scoble and Owyang (coincidently your competitor), sure I can see why you're irritated by them, yet they both successfully used social media at Microsoft and Hitachi respectively, that's another reason why we hired them.

over 8 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

PodTech Employee: I'm not "irritated" by anybody. Despite my skeptical and cynical nature, my criticism here is not ill-hearted nor personal. I don't know Scoble, Owyang, et. al. and I don't run in their circles.

I'm quite literally one of many outside observers who has pointed out that Web 2.0 and social media has been overhyped and any criticism I make that involves individuals is made because I feel those individuals have made claims or arguments that don't stand up to scrutiny.

As for Scoble and Owyang's "success" at Microsoft and Hitachi, respectively, I suppose a lot depends on how you define and measure "success." I've never seen any evidence that Scoble and Owyang's efforts made a non-negligible impact at these two multi-billion dollar companies.

And that simply is one of my constant points - you can't tell businesses that social media is a crucial component to success when you can't personally demonstrate that it can impact the bottom line. Frankly, I think so many people in the world of social media under-appreciate just what it takes to "move the needle" at a large company.

Finally, I should point out that your comment about Owyang being a competitor is not accurate. I am assuming that your statement is based on the fact that I blog for E-consultancy (which provides certain research services) and that Owyang works for Forrester (which also provides research services).

First, I am not an employee of E-consultancy. E-consultancy was kind enough to give me the opportunity to blog here and I do so as an "independent contractor." My views are my own and should not be construed as representing the beliefs of E-consultancy, its management or its employees.

I will say that one of the most enjoyable things about blogging here is that the people at E-consultancy respect my opinions and even if they disagree with me personally, trust that I'm going to make thoughtful, well-reasoned arguments, even if they're unpopular or contrarian.

Second, although both E-consultancy and Forrester provide research-oriented services, I personally don't perceive E-consultancy and Forrester as being competitors. Somebody from E-consultancy would be better able to speak to that than I can, however. In any case, any insinuation that I'm simply "bashing" a competitor would be misplaced as I have no vested interest in this regard.

over 8 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

Is Drama the Banksy of the internet blogging world... ;)

(p.s. no-one is who they claim to be here at E-consultancy. I'm actually Steve Jobs, Chris Lake is Bill Gates, and Graham Charlton is Micky Mouse. Actually, based on the 'On the Internet knows you're a dog' (see http://www.unc.edu/depts/jomc/academics/dri/idog.jpg) cartoon this is actually just a blogging platform for Battersea Dogs Home. Just off to fetch some sticks...)

over 8 years ago

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Peter B

Interesting that no one is talking about the products this company made as the reason it failed. The products were not saleable. If PodTech had made videos anyone cared enough about to buy or advertise on, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Whoever put this company together was a moron. It's like Spinal Tap, only much more pathetic because PodTech was real. At least Christopher Guest could actually play the guitar.

over 8 years ago

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Peter B

And saying the videos weren't saleable is a kind way of saying they sucked.

over 8 years ago

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