If CBS were to greenlight a TV series about life at a modern media giant, the director would find it hard to cast anyone but Quincy Smith as himself. Call it 60 Seconds, a version of the news show sped up for the Web. His $1.8 billion CNET buy is just the latest episode in the life of the fast-talking president of CBS Interactive. Smith is sui generis; the stereotype, which grates on him but fits, is that of a frenetic dealmaker. Last month, he said he was looking for "the next YouTube"; instead, he bought a company which, having been founded in 1992, is eight times older than the current incarnation of CBS. CBS handlers offered to have him speak to me; I accepted. In the middle of the mile-a-minute conversation-argument, I think we both wondered what we'd gotten ourselves into. A partial transcript — the most I was able to type out while trying to keep up with Smith's banter:
Quincy Smith: We like the logo. We may borrow it.
Valleywag: CNET in the eye? It's already yours. That was one of your new employees, Andrew Mager. So Quincy, what do you buy now? There's nothing left.
Smith: What are you talking about? Are you crazy? That's like saying the Internet has stopped.
Valleywag: Have you heard of Jonathan Zittrain? I'm told he's trying to stop the Internet.
Smith: Zittrain and I went to college together, but I don't think he knew me. He was much smarter. I don't want people to think this is one big deal. The Internet is a big new medium, not rebroadcast television. Hey, we have a platform to retaliate now!
Valleywag: What, do I have to watch out for Caroline McCarthy?
Smith: We're going to put the two of you on mixed martial arts. Until you have that platform to really build that out — you've got to make sure you have a footprint. Think about CNET and all the properties they have, not just CNET.com. That's like saying CBS Interactive is just CBSSports.com. There's MP3.com, there's Radio.com, there's Chow, there's UrbanBaby.
Valleywag: So you're saying all the acquisitions you did before CNET are pointless, and now that you bought CNET, you can do more?
Smith: Now I know why no one ever talks to you. No, we did Wallstrip, we launched MobLogic.tv, we bought DotSpotter, which you guys broke, which was really an acquire-hire — those guys are redesigning CBS.com. But we think we're getting a real asset in CNET, there's a real business there. Look, I'm getting the hook, good talking to you!
At last I understand how Smith gets so many deals done: He just talks his targets into submission. Quincy, if you ever go back into investment banking, they might need your help up in Redmond.