I know, I know: you likely can’t take one more analysis of the Mark Zuckerberg/Sarah Lacy debacle. But as tempers have calmed and more thoughtful analysis beyond “she sucked” emerges, I must add my two cents. As someone who was sitting smack in the middle of the audience and experienced the vibe, I disagree with those who are now calling it a witch hunt and an overreaction by an unsympathetic audience. The packed-to-the-gills ballroom sat on their hands and kept their mouth shut for the majority of the Q&A. But as time ticked by and Lacy continued to cut off his answers, plug her upcoming book, and relate personal stories that weren’t of interest to the crowd (his profuse sweating in their first interview, for example), the murmuring and discomfort became palpable. Frankly, I was embarrassed for her. It was like watching a tanking Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone on far too long.
From what I know of Lacy, she’s a sharp reporter – BusinessWeek isn’t in the habit of hiring dimbullbs. But she was off her game in this interview and didn’t ask the questions this developer audience wanted to hear. The attendees unhappy with the interview weren’t in “the back of the room,” as TechCrunch surmises. They were everywhere and were of all shapes and sizes. Three people on all sides of me – none of which were developers – got up and left before the kerfuffle kicked in, uncomfortable and fed up with a highly anticipated keynote that went south.
We can all agree that Zuckerberg is a tough interview. But the audience wasn’t displeased with the answers he was giving; they were displeased with Lacy’s unprofessional and weirdly personal interview style. Jeff Jarvis hit the nail on the head; she should’ve researched her audience more. And Brian Solis (linked above) makes a good point that SXSW organizers should take part of the blame. It seems that the audience was misread at several junctures. In the end though, the only question that needs to be answered is whether Lacy did her job as a reporter and interviewer. Turning an entire ballroom of excited attendees into a torch-wielding mob is an answer in itself.