The Decline and Fall of Robert ScobleS

Ignored in high school, the geek princes of social media now thrive on attention from eager fanboys (and calculating flacks). Relentless Fast Company egoblogger Robert Scoble was their king. Until he got dethroned.

Scoble — chubby, bespectacled, and awkward, the unlikeliest of all video personalities — main job for the magazine was to produce a seemingly infinite series of video profiles of startups. Scoble's unwatchable videos mostly consisted of him lapping up tech blather from CEOs of doomed startup ventures about how they would be reinventing some paradigm or another. But as bad as they were, he fell from old-media grace for two main reasons.

First, he picked the wrong backers. The Fast Company Web guy who hired him, Ed Sussman, was loathed by his counterparts at the print magazine and got fired last year. And the videos were sponsored by Seagate, the hard-drive maker. After the company fired CEO Bill Watkins, with whom Scoble had a mutual lovefest, it was only a matter of time before the gravy train ended.

Second, there was Scoble's dangerous overuse of the Web startups he covered. FriendFeed and Twitter provided a steady IV drip of attention, so vital for soothing the damaged ego of a geek who never got over his awkward youth. But Scoble's paid work suffered while he volunteered to provide obsessive entertainment for his fellow Internet addicts.

He and Fast Company are saving face by continuing his column (heavily rewritten or wholly composed, no doubt, by an editor there). And he is, naturally, promising that he's meeting with a lot of companies to plan some exciting new startup. This is what one says in Silicon Valley when one is facing unemployment — the equivalent of talking up one's burgeoning freelance career in New York, or waxing enthusiastic about a script in Hollywood.

What really happened here: Scoble got invited by the pretty girl to the old-media prom. And he just got dumped. How will his ego ever recover?