How Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction inspired video entrepreneur Keith Richman


Before Jackson’s “nip slip,” Richman says on Recode Media, online video never worked.

After bouncing around Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, working at startups like Billpoint, Classifieds 2000 and OnePage, Keith Richman returned home to Southern California to try and make a go of working in Hollywood. When he couldn’t crack that industry, he “started looking around online.”

And then the 2004 Super Bowl happened.

“I missed Janet Jackson’s nipple slip,” Richman recalled on the latest episode of Recode Media With Peter Kafka. “I was at a decent computer with a relatively high-speed internet connection, and video had never worked for me. I went online, and there were 5,000 websites that, within two minutes of the actual event, had it up on their website.”

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty immediate,’” he added.

That feeling was the start of Richman’s career as a video entrepreneur. Today, he’s the president of Defy Media, a network of owned-and-operated online video channels like Smosh, ScreenJunkies and Clevver, which was formed from the merger of Alloy Digital and Break Media, which Richman co-founded.

In 2004, after browsing through some of those 5,000 Janet Jackson video sites, he found one called Big-Boys.com that he felt had a unique, funny and resonant voice about the incident. He contacted the creators and wound up buying a chunk of the site from them.

“From that, I was in the media business,” he said. “That’s what became Break.”

You can listen to Recode Media in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher. After this bonus episode, we’ll have another interview at our normal time this Thursday — in that one, Peter talks to music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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