How high is Jason Calacanis on his new videoblogger? "Veronica Belmont is a Rojas-level hire," he reportedly told groupies who showed up for a dim sum dinner in New York's Chinatown yesterday. That may sound like praise for Belmont, the videoblogger he hired away from CNET. But it's really more egotism. The thing you need to know about Jason Calacanis, the boy from Brooklyn who moved to Tinseltown, is that he fancies himself a new-age Hollywood mogul for the Web. Like a studio boss of old, he hopes to manufacture stars. Take, for example, his flashy hire of Peter Rojas away from Gizmodo (like Valleywag, a site published by Gawker Media) to run Engadget. Calacanis parlayed Engadget into a blog network, Weblogs Inc., which he then sold for $25 million to AOL. As an AOL executive, when Amanda Congdon left Rocketboom, he publicly offered her a videoblogging deal — which never panned out. Now, with Belmont, Mahalo's new videoblogger, Calacanis again wants to create a new star. He's fooling himself.
Not because Belmont is untalented. Far from it. We won't weigh in on whether she's "Rojas-level." (She is dating Ryan Block, Rojas's successor as the editor of Engadget.) Let's explore the Rojas analogy for a moment. At Engadget, Rojas never needed Calacanis; he succeeded out of sheer creative energy and a fierce desire to prove himself. Judging by Calacanis's hammy performance on her trailer video, if Belmont succeeds on Mahalo, it won't be because of Calacanis. It will be in spite of him.