LAS VEGAS -- Ashton Kutcher is angry at the state of Twitter."Media kind of f*cked it up," Kutcher said during his fireside chat at the CTIA Wireless show here Thursday. "Companies and people constantly pitching crap." During a lengthy Q&A session, Kutcher touched upon many facets of technology, including Twitter, but also on Facebook, the state of digital media, and mobile apps. And unlike his "That 70s Show" character, Kelso, he was smart and passionate about his comments. Here are some of the highlights:
The retweet button hurt Twitter, Kutcher said. In the early days, users would have to actively type out "RT" and copy and paste the original tweet to retweet the message. But the retweet button makes it easy to echo someone else, creating a lot of noise in the system.The real value for him is the ability to ask a question and get instant feedback. On Facebook: The social network is serving its purpose of managing relationships, said Kutcher, who doesn't believe the company or the network is too big. It's gone from an intimate platform to one where you connect with anyone you vaguely know, he said, noting that he also uses smaller social networks like photo-sharing app Path and one-on-one app Couple (both Kutcher investments). But Facebook is still valuable for him, he said. While most users complain about the ads on Facebook, Kutcher said he believes the company has done "an extraordinary job with ads." "The ads that it serves me are relevant to me," he said. "It's enhanced my experience, which is what really good advertising does." He wasn't completely kind to Facebook. When asked about Facebook Home, he smirked and asked, "How's it working?" He noted that when a company isn't too vocal with its numbers, it's usually a bad sign. He doesn't believe Facebook has mastered mobile, but conceded that no one really has, and cites data speeds as a constraint for everyone. "We haven't even scratched the surface," he said. He said it's jarring when Facebook tries to throw in the option to purchase gifts or other services beyond social network in its app. He compares an app to a phone: You only pick up the phone when you know whom to call. Likewise, you open an app for a specific task, and for Facebook, that's social networking. Throwing in other features aren't as effective. Like Instagram, Facebook might be better off with an independent app that accomplishes a different task like gift exchange, he said. On mobile apps: "If you're not mobile, you're antiquated," he said. He said he only invests in consumer-facing companies and software platforms, and a mobile component is a must. But he doesn't believe it has to be mobile first, and noted that a key dilemma remains app discovery. App stores have to get smarter, he said. In the meantime, he talks to the founders of companies he invests in, looks at gaps in his life he's looking to fill with apps, or spends time at conventions talking to people about apps. He spends 10 to 20 hours a week figuring out the next thing with apps. But there's a lag with the market, he said. "I'm shocked at how far behind the mass market is, and it's because of the discovery issue," he said. "It'll catch up. It's just the app stores need to get smarter about apps that people want and need." On digital media: The traditional broadcast model remains the dominant business and big money maker because of the quality of the programming and media, Kutcher said. Because the big networks make the most money, they can afford the best shows and movies. But that's changing with Amazon and Netflix getting into producing their own content. The content is going to get better and better, and will eventually upend the status quo. He noted that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves was smart to build out CBS Interactive to hedge against the possible decline in the traditional broadcast business. (CNET is part of CBS Interactive, which is owned by CBS.) The minute the content from the digital providers is better, they will win, Kutcher said. Kutcher, however, isn't keen on investing in the area. He said that for digital content to improve, companies will have to spend more money, which means the profit margins for those businesses will have to drop. "For me to invest in that, I don't see the (return on investment) in that," he said. On the future of cellular service: Kutcher eventually sees a new technology enhancing wireless communication the same way that Ethernet technology replaced dial-up for landline Internet connection. "If Apple wanted to turn on a unified hot spot, I don't think I would need a carrier," he said.
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