Mark Zuckerberg gets 60 Minutes to hype Facebook redesign and his reinvention as savvy CEO
The problem with being the gold standard in American TV journalism, is that viewers expect you to bring that level of performance to every interview.
Which is why it was so hard to watch the gooey confection of a story offered by CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday as a profile on Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Ostensibly, the news hook here was that Zuckerberg was previewing the new look of the service's profile pages which rolls out today, along with the CEO's first detailed discussion of the blockbuster movie built around his life story, The Social Network. But what mostly emerged was Zuckerberg's increasingly deft ability to handle TV interviewers and correspondent Lesley Stahl's tendency to gush over successful businesspeople.
Zuckerberg swatted aside the movie's depiction of him as a ruthless, anti-social dweeb by saying he is dating the same woman he was dating when he founded Facebook. Given that the movie opens with Zuckerberg's girlfriend leaving him, I wondered -- is this the same woman? Did screenwriter Aaron Sorkin invent that scene or did they reconcile later? Unfortunately, Stahl wasn't nearly as curious, so we got no further elaboration; not even the girl's name.
What we did get, was an old recitation of allegations from college colleagues who say Zuckerberg ripped them off to create Facebook, a journalist who was once dismissive of the CEO admitting that she was wrong about him and Stahl herself gushing over a fairly cosmetic update to Facebook's profile pages, which reorders some of the information displayed on the page.
(I liked the analysis of CBS' social media expert, who said the redesign emphasizes what Facebook finds important about social networking: photos, your relationship connections and the connections you may share with anyone else on the site. Might have been nice to give users the control to emphasize what THEY think is important, or have a journalist ask why Zuckerberg didn't design it that way).
One interesting element of the profile page redesign is its "Friendship" button -- a link you can click when visiting someone else's page to see all your connections to them -- common friends, past wall posts. photos you are both tagged in and things you both like. As Stahl notes in her piece, it's a bit like a cyberspatial version of the things you would tell someone when you first meet them in a bar.
But Stahl doesn't press Zuckerberg on how unflattering the movie is to him personally, how socially stunted it makes him seem, how it may affect public perception of him or what it says about his relationship to the person who seemed to be his best friend then, Eduardo Saverin -- a wealthy backer who was CFO on the company briefly until Zuckerberg pushed him out.
Stahl also didn't ask why Zuckerberg himself was so much better at answering her questions now than during their first on camera meeting in 2008, when he seemed much more like Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal in The Social Network (another difference from 2008; back then, he was on one of 60 Minutes' lowest-rated shows -- this one is all over the Internet hours later). Is he a better CEO, or has he been well-coached? Or both?
So many great questions left unasked, as Stahl focused on the gossipy yet-well worn storylines of Google's war with Facebook and it intent to dominate the Internet.