LAMB: Ted Leonsis, you tell a story in your book about Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Would you recount that for us?
THEODORE LEONSIS, PRESIDENT & COO, AOL LLC: Well, my family grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts and a lot of French-Canadians also came to Lowell to work in the mill towns and the Kerouac family and my mother's family became very, very close and I ended up as student here at Georgetown University, wrote a thesis on Jack Kerouac and Ginsberg came to town with William Burroughs and I met them, ended up taking the class with me and hanging out with them.
LAMB: Who - for those that never heard of all three, tell us more about Jack Kerouac and his book.
LEONSIS: Jack Kerouac was - wrote a bestselling book, very influential book called "On the Road." "On the Road" really started the beat generation kind of a countercultural look at the world. Kerouac was a disaffected youth, went to Columbia University and while he was there, he met Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg wrote a very sentimentally (ph) important book called "Howl," probably the most famous poem of the '60s, and the two of them became very, very good friends.
LAMB: How about William Burroughs?
LEONSIS: William Burroughs, also a great writer. And the three of them really became celebrities in their own right, not just for their writing but for the lifestyle that they were trying to create. You had in the New York music scene, you had jazz and the beats and they really were the precursors if you will to maybe the free love hippie movement in the '60s.
LAMB: And how did you meet those two guys?
LEONSIS: They were here giving a lecture at the Folger Library and I went over and told them that I had some family relations with Kerouac. They had become estranged from the Kerouac family and they thought that they could get closer to the family by being nice to me. And so they sat for a couple of days' worth of interviews and it really helped me.
It also was a lot of fun bringing them into the Georgetown radio station and having Allen Ginsberg read "Howl" and also do some transcendental meditation on air.
LAMB: It struck me really you have a lot of lessons that you're teaching in your book. But it struck me that you went out of your way, and this is an a lesson to find these two guys. And did you think that they would come with you to class or that they would â€¦
LEONSIS: No, I think in anything in life there was an early lesson. That a lot of times if you just ask, people will say "yes." And there was the case where I wanted to get a good grade. I wanted to do really good primary research. And so I maybe went a little above and beyond the call of duty and went to a poetry reading and hung around afterwards and introduced myself. And sometimes you just never know unless you ask, you'll probably get a yes.
LAMB: What were you studying overall at Georgetown?
LEONSIS: American Studies and Foreign Service were my two concentrations.
LAMB: And how did you end up there?
LEONSIS: Well, it's a strange story because neither my mom and dad went to college. I never visited the campus. A guy whose lawn I mowed was a Georgetown graduate and he knew I was fastidious with how I mowed his lawn and we became friends. And he asked me where was I going to apply to college and I said I really didn't know. And he served a bit of as a mentor to me and helped me to get into the university.
LAMB: Did you ever have a goal of making a lot of money?
LEONSIS: I didn't. I didn't know that I was poor until I came to Georgetown. My dad was a waiter, my mom was a secretary and I think between them, the best year they ever had was $28,000.
LAMB: And so when did that - I mean, one of the reasons you wrote the book is tell us a story of your 13 years with American Online, made a lot of moneyâ€¦
LAMB: ... when did that start? When did you feel it?
LEONSIS: Well, I was an entrepreneur right out of college. Couple of years into my career, I started my first company. It was a publishing company and I raised some venture capital and was very fortunate. I sold it to International Thomson, now Thomson Reuters for $65 million. In a very, very young age, I came into a lot of money.
And I was kind of programmed, if you work really, really hard and you're successful, you make a lot of money. Then you would feel successful and you would be happy. And what the book really is positing is that if you're happy, you can be successful. But if you're successful, you're not necessarily happy.
LAMB: That first company was called LIST, what is it stands for?
LEONSIS: Right. It was the Leonsis Index to Software Technology. It was a database online company started in 1982, around the launch of the IBM PC and it looked like a TV Guide. The front of the book was interviews with software executives like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. And the back of the book was a directory of what software work and what hardware.
And it really kind of - it was a precursor - today it would be a Web site - like a Yahoo! that had the directory of everything that you needed to find, very easily organized.
LAMB: What did you sell that company for, how much?
LEONSIS: I sold it for $65 million. And after taxes, I made 20 million bucks and I declared victory. I have great empathy for my players now, you know, young people like Alexander Ovechkin, we just signed him to a 12-year $125 million deal.
And you're not really prepared for what notoriety and a big paycheck will bring to you. And what I found is that I kind of lost my way a little bit. And then I got into one-year plan. And the airplane developed all sorts of mechanical difficulties and you know, we prepared for a crash landing. And it's really kind of the big pivotal moment in my life.
First, you always read about people dying with a smile on their face. And around the plane, no one was smiling - everyone was weeping and crying or praying. And so I have a high level of faith but I thought it was inauthentic if I just prayed.
So I started to negotiate and literally said, "It'll be a good deal if you let me live. I promise that if I get a second chance, I'll leave more than I take and I'll play offense with the rest of my life and I'll try to be additive. I won't just be a taker."
And obviously, I made it through and the following weekend, I sat down to say, "OK well, I got to do over. I got the second chance. What do I do?" And I didn't have any tools available to me. And I knew I have had a reckoning. I have had this big pivot in my life.
So I ended up making this list of 101 things to do before I die. And it's been a guiding force that helped me to envision a lot of the twists and turns that my life positively had taken. But it also put me on the path and road to being a student of happiness.
And right down the street is where my journey started at the Library of Congress. You go and you read online in a digital format the Declaration of Independence. And you know it was redlined and black-lined, it had lots of edits and the only sentence that wasn't edited that had no added value by any of the founding fathers was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That's in our DNA as a country. It's in our genetics as people. Think about it it's what religion sells, yet as students, as business people, we are not programmed to think about a quest for happiness and self-actualization.
LAMB: When I picked your book, I've read your book, I'm trying to figure out you and your background. There's some mixed messages - so you clear it up.
LAMB: First, it's published by Regnery which is a well-known conservative publisher. You got help in writing this from John Buckley who worked for Ronald Reagan and worked for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. But if I had just read your book - and he is also endorsed by Maria Shriver and Don Graham, and Chris Wallace and some others - I would have guessed you were a liberal. So fill in the blanks here, how does all of this fit together?
LEONSIS: You know, I've never put a label on myself. I'm fiscally conservative. I am a bootstrap entrepreneur. My father was first generation from Greece. I truly believe in the American dream, I think I embody some of it that, well I ended up owning sports teams. I ended up taking companies public, I've done well and I believe that the economy and capitalism is at the heart of what makes America great.
At the same time, I realized that being happy - really the biggest part of it is being an active participant in communities of interests. And volunteering and giving back and having social awareness are equally as important. So I guess I'd say I'm fiscally very conservative but I'm socially progressive.
LAMB: I also noticed that you gave money to both John McCain and Barrack Obama?
LEONSIS: Yes, I gave them both and it was interesting when John and I were working on the book and ...
LAMB: John Buckley.
... John Buckley. And we put out the formula of what makes for success through happiness. It was right there in the primaries and we wrote down each of the candidates to say who scored the highest. And based on the formula, Obama scored the highest, the high levels of self-expression, he was a community activist. He showed great empathy, he was always looking at what the higher calling of the position was.
And so - so that started to lead us to - it isn't just about personal happiness, that companies that are happy, that campaigns that are happy and pursue this formula they end up getting the accrual of the highest levels of value.
So the front of the book is a personal journey book, but the back of the book really talks about how business is. Like Google as an example. I wrote a story last week in Newsweek about how Google withdrew from China. And when you listened, all of the experts and Wall Street analysts said, "You can't leave China. China is the fourth biggest Internet market and it'll soon be the biggest Internet market. It's the world's biggest emerging economy, it's bad business."
But Sergey said, "I really don't want to be" - Sergey Brin was one of the co-founders of the company said, "I can't be happy knowing that someone's reading e-mails and arresting students. I can't be happy knowing that they want to come in and crash into my network and steal, you know, trade secrets." And so he pulled out. He did the right thing the right way. And the morale of the company went up and you watch, the business will get even stronger.
There's a lot we can talk about because there's a lot of different things that you're involved in. One of the things, before we get to your documentary production that you have, I want to show you a clip of you and of American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in - 13 years ago. And bring us up-to-date on your thinking from then to now?
In the future, editors are going to be bartenders - that's what I think. And while it's a terrible thing to say in that what the role of a editor will be social media. It will be, I'm bringing you into a place, into a bar. I'm going to give you the news. I'm going to bring other people around that will talk to you about the news. I'll find dissenting voices and I'll package that up to you. That's a great new position and job.
LAMB: Well, that's a lousy description of what a society ought to be, I think. I think that work - you know, look at the Pulitzer Prize, look at what the Seattle Times did with its investigation on the 747 rudders. And so, how the hell is that going to happen on the Internet? You know, that's a reporter. I don't know those people.
That's a reporter who took months working on a story like that when the biggest industry in town, Boeing was saying this guy is not credible, the paper is irresponsible. All those things produced wonderful work that's got a major impact on all of us. How does that stuff happen online? We just pretend we're bartenders.
That's a whole video (ph) of you 13 years ago talking to Ron Martin that was the Editor of Atlanta Journal Constitution, what were you doing in 1997?
LEONSIS: Well, I was President of America Online and was really an evangelist for this new media. And then how it would level the playing field and bring education and democracy to a very wide audience. And I just believed and I was using terminology 13 years ago which is very relevant today. And Google and Facebook and Twitter really are the platforms for the new consumer. I think the newspaper that he was referencing is no longer in business.
There's 167 newspapers that are in Chapter 11 proceedings right now. And a part of the reason is that I've always felt that some media viewed themselves as high priests, you know. He was offended by the concept of being a bartender and what I meant by that. I was using Sam Malone at "Cheers," which was a big show at the time, where Sam really would activate discussion. And that's really what news and information does. It informs you but it also allows you to activate your social awareness and discussion points with family members and friends.
LAMB: What were the 13 years that you were at the America Online?
LEONSIS: I got AOL in 1993 and just retired at the end of '06.
LAMB: And the team you referred to earlier is the Washington Capitals, the hockey team, and how long have you owned them?
LEONSIS: I've owned the Washington Capitals and the Mystics for about a dozen years and I owned 44 percent of the Verizon Center right around the corner from here as well as the Washington Wizards.
LAMB: And The Mystics are?
LEONSIS: The Mystics are the WNBA women's basketball team.
LAMB: And how are they doing?
LEONSIS: They made the playoffs last year. We have a good team. The Caps finished first in the NHL during the regular season and now we're into the playoffs.
LAMB: Let me go back to that session 13 years with another clip and get your reaction to this.
LEONSIS: I think there's a defensiveness sometimes that in newspapers themselves that brings some of this up. It's not going out business. They, you know, television didn't go out of business with cable. OK, but I will tell you that 10 years ago, I sat in a conference and a meeting like this where Ted Turner was on.
And there were some broadcast network executives and they were saying, "This isn't journalism. This isn't going to work. This is chicken noodle network." You know, spending too much money, it's not making any money. And Net Time (ph) Corporate offered $5 million for it, right? And then didn't do it.
And now they paid $7 billion for it. And it's the place where on television news is defined. Now this is just a matter of "Do you embrace, do you push away?" - newspapers are not going out of business. There is a way to take your core competencies and move up the value chain in this new medium.
LAMB: How you doing 13 years later?
LEONSIS: Well, I was wrong. They are going out of business and I wish they had listened a little bit more aggressively to move more aggressively, more quickly into the new media. You know, newspapers just now are starting to get more active in blogging. They've just now starting to realize the importance of video. They're really trying to embrace that all of their consumers aren't reading printed paper.
And you know, prices have gone up for gas, unions charged too much money and what's ironic is that the free product - and I'm a subscriber to the Washington Post and I joked with Don Green (ph) about this all the time. The free product on the Web is better than the product that I pay for in newspaper form, right?
I get the newspaper in the morning, it doesn't get updated. It's mostly black and white, it gets my hands dirty. I go on their website, I have video, I have audio, it's updated all the time. And so that the genie is out of the bottle, this new media - because of bandwidth, because of Moore's Law, because of the amount of investment that's been made in infrastructure on the Internet, it's just - it was a matter of time before the new media really became the primary media. And that newspapers now, really, are aside kind of behind what's happened.
LAMB: The area of your book where you're the most critical is the whole business of the merger with Time. Now, give us the time frame again. What year did Steve Case and Jerry Levin get together with the merger?
LEONSIS: 1999 and you know, in my book you'll note that I say the fifth tenant for happiness is finding the higher calling and knowing the mission that your company or you personally are on. And at AOL, when we were a stand-alone company, our mission really was bringing democracy around the world, introducing the magic of interactivity to, you know, the largest audience possible.
We wanted to get America Online and then we acquired Time Warner and our mission became $11 billion of profit. We used to always obsess and worry about how happy 250 million customers were. And post-merger, all we're really worried about was 15 Wall Street analysts.
And you could just literally plot AOL's downfall to the day of the merger. And so, you know, I was a product, I ran the service, I cared about our customers and I would say that no one comes to work motivated by trying to generate free cash flow so we can pay off cable debt. People come to work because they want to work in a company that has a double bottom line. And that concept is central in my book.
Every movie I make, all my sports teams, every business I invest in now, they have to have strong double bottom lines. You know, you founded a company, you wanted to get big penetration, you wanted to get good cable fees, you want people to be a little supportive and sponsor it. You want the critics to like what you're doing but you're trying to change the world. You're trying to bring information to lots of people. You're trying to get people to understand how their government functions.
And so, you created a double bottom line business. And once you over-indexed one way or the other way too much, businesses get out of balance and they don't succeed.
LAMB: There is a line here I want to read it back to you. You kind of said it now but, "Very quickly, we became an inward focus company. We became a company that managed for Wall Street." Explain what happens, what happened in your head when you were a merged company and you were based in Virginia and Time Warner was based in New York, what's managing for Wall Street?
LEONSIS: You look at what are the financial ramifications of every decision that you're making and your time horizon of goodness is 90 days. It's the next quarter ahead of you as opposed to what is in the best long-term interests of our key stakeholders, our employees, our customers. You start to scrimp a little bit on service, you start to scrimp a little bit on maybe we don't need this extra content, maybe that's a nice to have.
And once you start to go down that road where everything is primarily looked at through a financial filter so you can meet a financial analyst's expectation. Well, the financial analysts really are a step behind what the consumer wants.
And my belief is that you make a great product and you make a great service, and you have a good business model and you execute, then Wall Street will report on what your prospects are.
But when you start to try and trek or get into cahoots with financial analysts and now Brian to have the whisper number, it's no longer good enough just to meet the number. There might be a whisper number that you - and you tend to put all of your time and energy around the wrong thing.
And right now, there's this call to get back to basics. Money isn't the product, we saw that. What's going on with Goldman Sachs right now, they were making money a product into itself. American business operates best when it knows what its customers want. When it makes fantastic and innovative products and services, consumers will pay for that. And if you have that going, that virtuous cycle, the financials will speak for themselves and then Wall Street can make their bet on you or not.
LAMB: But you talked though that - and I read all through this period from the different sides what people thought about each other. But you talked about the arrogance that existed in the New York crowd.
LEONSIS: Well, I think the traditional media sometimes is very disconnected with mainstream America. I also think that there's an arrogance sort of America versus the rest of the world.
Today, they were 2 billion people online around the world. Only 10 percent of the world's Internet population is here in United States. Even though we perfected and helped invent the Internet, we're a small piece of the overall pie.
I laud what our government's trying to do right now in making broadband, making connectivity like clean running water or like electricity. We have fallen behind in a game that we invented. If we don't innovate using the Internet as the platform for these new services, then you look at the uptick in the economy and the business around. Like the iPhone and all of the applications that are coming on the iPhone and the iPad, some of the things that Google is doing. That's still the engine that will drive our economy and if we don't have the basic power plant, we'll fall behind.
And so what I saw with Time Warner a little bit is that they liked the world just like those newspaper editors. They like the world the way it was. It was good when people weren't provided the tools. And we live in this world of faster, better, cheaper till it's free. We live in this world where bandwidth and computing powers doubling every 18 months.
And so that pace of change is so dramatic and when you're a leader, when you know, when you own Time Magazine, you don't want there to be a Google. You don't want there to be innovation because that's going to destroy - you're certainly changed the business model that you developed for the last 20 or 30 years.
LAMB: You left AOL in 2007. You started with LIST and then Redgate, what was that?
LEONSIS: Redgate was a new media company that merged with AOL back in 1993.
LAMB: And then AOL and you merged with Time Warner.
LAMB: And now, you got the sports teams, what else are you doing?
LEONSIS: I started to make movies. I realized that moviemaking helped exercise the creative part of my personality. But also was a way of giving back. I ended up coining the term "filmanthropy," make movies that will get critically acclaimed and win awards and do well in theaters and get bought by the HBOs of the world.
But use the medium to ignite change of perception or activate volunteerism or activate charitable giving so I've made three movies. They've all run high in that double bottom line, one won an Emmy Award last year. They've all been bought for, you know, major broadcast distribution. But what I'm most proud of is that they've been good work kinds of films. They've helped shine the light on a tough subject and got people to volunteer or write checks for the charities that they focused on.
LAMB: The first movie you did, a documentary called "Nanking." Where'd you get the idea?
LEONSIS: I was reading the New York Times. I was on vacation and I read an obituary and it was a wonderful story about a woman named Iris Chang and how this woman had written a book about a forgotten holocaust. And I had never seen those two words strung together, a forgotten holocaust.
And her picture was so warm and inviting in this article about her. When I came home I Googled her, I ended up buying the book. And when you go to Amazon it says, "If you like this book, you like these books." And there was a couple of books that had just come out, "Good Man of Nanking" and "American Goddess of Nanking." So I bought all three books and I was absolutely devastated by this time in history.
But I was shocked by how strong a moral code Westerners, Americans had and how the Chinese worship these people as gods and goddesses. At a time when Americans were looked at poorly around the world, here was a time in history when individuals did the right thing. They had moral courage, they did things out of the goodness of their hearts to help. And now these books were coming out because China had become more populous and open and their stories were being told. And I just felt compelled to tell the story in a movie.
LAMB: Here's an excerpt from your documentary. It's about a minute-and-a-half and we'll continue to talk about that and also Iris Chang.
(FOREGIN LAGUAGE DICTATION) LAMB: Those are Chinese gentlemen, they're talking about 1937. Nanking was the capital of China, the Japanese were bombing them and then came in and did what?
LEONSIS: Well it's called the "Rape of Nanking" and it really was a terrible time in history. There was an invading army - anyone who is Chinese who had any means to get out of the city fled. And there was about a million refugees left in Nanking and the Japanese occupied. And during a very short period of time killed a lot of people and raped a lot of women.
And basically it's not acknowledged or at least until the movie came out. We're not acknowledging that this time in history really had ever occurred. In fact there's lots of people who were considered deniers. They think that the episode was overblown.
And so what we did was we went to China, we found 88 living survivors. They're all in their 80s and 90s and we were able to catalog and interview them. We also went all over the world and got unbelievable footage. As you saw, we won the editing award at the Sundance Film Festival back in '07. And then we were able to get 12 Hollywood movie stars to bring to life diaries and letters that were written by these people who were in Nanking, China.
And it really was unbelievable because, you know, there was no e-mail. There was no phones and so there were people who would write in their diaries - hour by hour what they saw, what they heard.
And then there was a priest, a minister who went out and seditiously filmed and so there was an actual film that got smuggled out of the country and brought here via the state department and shown at the U.S. capital.
LAMB: Will you tell us how much you've spent on making that movie?
LEONSIS: It was a major endeavor, it's almost a couple of millions of dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: : Did you get your money back?
LEONSIS: I don't think I'll ever get my money back, but I've done so well on the other bottom line of bringing a lot of attention to this time in history. It did very well on HBO. It won an Emmy Award, we won Peabody Award and so, I've been paid back so many more times than just economically.
LAMB: In 1998, Iris Chang sat there and was interviewed for her book. In 2004, she committed suicide and in 2007, you made this film. I want to go back to 1998, this is - I want to warn the audience, this is the roughest stuff we've ever shot - I think shown on this program, but this is from the book notes of 1998 with Iris Chang.
IRIS CHANG: That's a photo of a woman who - a rape victim who is being forced to pose next to a Japanese soldier, naked. They found these photos in the wallets of some of the Japanese soldiers, you know, they took them. And sometimes the people in the local photo map would make copies because they knew how important they were.
LAMB: On the other page at the top, which that - what's that photo?
IRIS CHANG: I still have problems looking at it. That's the woman who's been impaled after she's been raped.
LAMB: And down here - and where did you find this?
IRIS CHANG: This again, came from China. And it was - it came from the Chinese archives.
LAMB: And the photo above it?
IRIS CHANG: That's a picture of a woman who's been gang raped and she - as you could see - she's been tied to the chair so that she could be raped whenever the soldiers were in the mood for it. And again, I mean, I have a hard time even looking at these pictures even now.
LAMB: Can you give us any insight explaining how human beings would do this to one another?
LEONSIS: Well, it is really moving to see Iris, I become friends with Iris' mother and father and Mrs. Chang is a wonderful woman. And she believes that there was reason that I read this obituary, and she said Iris had always wanted to make a high quality film because you can't really tell this story just in print and in black and white photographs.
I don't know, I don't think there's anything positive when an army invades and occupies a city and basically takes for hostage and young men and women. And the Japanese were using China - it really is a launching pad for World War II.
And there was a deep generationally distrust between the Chinese and the Japanese. Nanking was the capital of China at that time. Ironically, when that city fell, it was very embarrassing to the Chinese. In fact, when the people's army was created afterwards, China - one of the reasons China is such a strong singular nation right now is what happened then. There was kind of a vow that why would we ever let a smaller nation like a Japan be able to come in and overrun and occupy our country?
And so they looked at "The Rape of Nanking," not unlike Israel looks at the Holocaust, you know, never again. And they fortified themselves and, you know, they have one of the strongest militaries now and something like that could never happen in China.
LAMB: The Wikipedia site on Iris Chang has the three notes that she wrote - her suicide notes on November the 8th 2004, and the second one I wanted to read back to you because it, again, based on your book, you might be able to give us some insight because here's a woman that saw all this, spent all those time and talked about it. And she ended up shooting - killing herself with a gun. She wrote this on the day she - I think the day before she shot herself.
"When you believe you have a future" - and by the way, she had a nervous breakdown at near Louisville, the time before that. "When you believe you have a future, you think in terms of generation than years. When you do not, you live not just by the day, but by the minute. It is far better that you remember me as I was - in my heyday as a best-selling author," said Iris Chang, "than the wild-eyed wreck who returned from Louisville. Each breath is becoming difficult for me to take. The anxiety can be compared to drowning in an open sea. I know that my actions will transfer some of this pain to others, indeed those who love me the most. Please forgive me. Forgive me because I cannot forgive myself."
LEONSIS: Well, certainly she was deeply troubled. I mean equally as sad. One of the heroes in the movie and in Iris' book was a woman from Ohio named Minnie Vautrin. And Minnie's saved the lives - Minnie Vautrin's - and I believe she called the American Goddess of Nanking. She symbolized the 15,000 young women.
This group of Westerners banded together and created a safe zone and accredited with saving a couple of hundred thousand people. When she came home, when they finally liberated Nanking, when she came home, she, too, took her own life. And in her notes, it was like, "I wish I had been able to do more."
And it's a very, very tough time in history and it shows no - I looked at my movie, it's almost an anti-war film. There's no right or wrong but it shows that bad things happen to innocent civilians when a nation occupies that city.
LAMB: Here's some more, about another a minute and a half from your documentary, Nanking.
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE DICTATION)
It's not until we toured the city that we learned the extent of the destruction. We come across corpses every 100 or 200 yards. The bodies of civilians that I examined had bullet holes on their backs. These people had presumably been fleeing and they're shot from behind.
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE DICTATION)
Were you surprised that the Japanese participated in your documentary?
LEONSIS: Well, those are some soldiers who were actually there, and some of them have since passed on. And I think it was the end of the life, getting some things off of their chest.
What we wanted to do with the movie and we're able to do successfully is, we as filmmakers didn't want to have a point of view. We just talked to survivors, to soldiers who were there and read verbatim from the diaries and brought all of that together with pictures and videos.
And, you know, I'll be honest, I had some threats against me by some right-wing Japanese, and there was some protests and you know, they say, "There weren't 21,000 women who were raped." And I'd say," OK, how many were raped?" And they'd say, "Well, less." And it's OK, "How many? 15,000? 13,000? I mean is that OK?"
And so I understand what happened to poor Iris Chang. She broke the news, if you will with this book, and she was ridiculed mercilessly about, well that picture that you say happened in this city on this day, it didn't.
It couldn't have been in November because look at the way the sun is setting and so if this picture is dated wrong, then that must mean the rest of the posits in your book must be wrong. And she took it personally that she was kind of on trial in this court of public opinion.
LAMB: Her suicide - was there any - talking to her parents, was there any evidence that she had depression before it all started?
LEONSIS: I do believe that she had some depression. And if you were around the subject matter for enough, I mean, you could see how it would really add to a darkness and an unweave (ph) that would set in because it's horrible part of life.
What my movie tried to show though was that even in the darkest times, there's light. Even in the most gruesome times and the Westerners who stayed behind were great heroes as well as many of the Chinese who stayed behind and banded together. And that's really what - at the heart of my book, being part of a community, finding the higher calling, volunteering and giving back, getting out of the eye and serving collectively.
Those are all traits that make for happiness and self-actualization, and every one of those Westerners - Woody Harrelson plays the role, reads the diaries of a Harvard Medical School-trained doctor, who has worked in Nanking.
The U.S. government sent boats and trains to get everyone out and these 12 people stayed behind. And he writes this beautiful letter home to his wife and says, "I can't come home. I know I should but I'll never be able to look in the mirror knowing that I left. And I left people behind to die unnecessarily and you as my wife wouldn't love me, knowing that I was less of a man than you thought you would marry then."
And so those were the kinds of episodes that we wanted to dwell on, and that if you do the right thing the right way, you'll become self-actualized. You'll be happy and in this case, these people were heroes and their stories have never been told.
LAMB: Now, you can watch this documentary free on something called snagfilms.com.
LEONSIS: Yes. I made - I started to make documentaries and I realized that there were so many great and talented filmmakers. They'll make these wonderful, good work movies, but there aren't movie theaters that will show them, you know, they'd rather show "Batman" and "Superman" and "Transformers" and so these good work films sometimes don't reach a wide audience.
So knowing a lot about the Internet and using this concept of filmanthropy, but people want to do good. They want to self-express. So I created a new business called snagfilms.com, it's booming, it's doing great.
We have a couple of thousands free movies. You can go watch movies like "Nanking," like another one of my films called, "Kicking It," like "Super Size Me," like "Hoop Dreams," really great films.
And then if you like the movie, you can snag it and then you can drag it and embedded onto your blog or your Facebook page or your Web site and let your audience watch the movie.
And now, we have about 80,000 virtual movie theaters open. We reach a couple a hundred million people every month. We're streaming 15, 20 million movies per month and we sell advertising in it. And we give half the ad revenue to the filmmakers so they're getting revenues, but we work with every filmmaker to pick a charity that they want to support, and we embed that charity right into the movie. And so we're supporting about 455 charities right now.
And so I'm very proud of it in that I think it's going to a big business. It's going to have lots of revenues and lots of traffic, but we're going to support a lot of charities. And we're going to help filmmakers to break through that only 500 movie theaters will show independent movies. Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" was in 500 movie theaters. He won the Nobel Prize and won an Oscar, but not a lot people saw it. And now, this will become kind of the YouTube, if you will for good work movies.
LAMB: Mark Cuban has some theaters called Landmark theaters. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. And you can see him about as often as you can see you in the sports world.
LAMB: What is it about you sports guys that sports come first or these movies come first?
LEONSIS: Well, I think what happen is that you make your wealth in a field of endeavor like high technology, mine was America Online. Mark sold the company to Yahoo and made a lot of money. You buy sports teams - one, because they're a lot of fun and two, there's such important local assets.
Nothing brings a city closer together than a winning sports team. We're seeing that now with the Washington Capitals. It's also a platform to give back. We support so many charities, our players supports many charities and so in and of itself is a double bottom line business.
I started to make movies and not only make good work movies, I'll only make films as a filmanthropist. I don't want to make "Transformers 3." I want to give back and I like exercising the creative part of my personality through filmmaking or writing books.
LAMB: Where did you get the name, SnagFilms?
LEONSIS: From the actual action, if you're watching the movie and you like it, you can snag it and drag it in and embed into your Web site and open a virtual movie theater.
LAMB: Where is the company based?
LEONSIS: It's here in Washington, D.C. as well as Tribeca in New York.
LAMB: And how many people worked there?
LEONSIS: There's a couple of dozen people right now. It's growing really, really fast. Steve Case, who's the founder of AOL, he's one of the investors in it.
And, you know, our goal is to make this really the one-stop-shop for independent film and documentary film, and really be the filmmaker's best friend. And if we can do that and bring these good work films to the widest audience possible around the world, we think we'll not only be contributing to society as whole, but we going to build a really big scale of a business.
LAMB: Over the history of documentaries, most of them, almost an alarming number have been done by leftist or center (ph) people.
LEONSIS: I think that that's because a lot of foundations will fund them, and many of the foundations perhaps are liberal, I think what you're seeing though now is that reality television and YouTube, documentary is a way of expressing is becoming second nature to young adults.
And I think you'll see lots of students - I know my son is at University of Pennsylvania right now. They teach you to express using video because bandwidth is so available and the cost of production is going down so low. In moviemaking, the cost of it - because you can shoot in HD is going so low.
So I think we will see short forum and documentary film becoming very, very popular with young people as they enter the workforce, and that we're going to see an explosion of views - left, center, right, business, charity, all using this medium as a way to get their message out.
LAMB: What's been the most watched documentary you've put on SnagFilms?
LEONSIS: Well, we've had some that have gotten millions and millions of hits. We just had one to start baseball season called, "Fantasyland." It was about men who kind of give up their lives and their families because they get so inundated with fantasy baseball.
We have films about diseased states, about health. We had one very moving one about a young man who goes away to college, and gets involved with a drinking game in a fraternity and dies. And the mother gets really, really upset, not only because her son died because she realizes and learns that 3,000 kids - more kids die every year of alcohol poisoning in high school and college that died during 9/11. And she takes it on herself and makes this film called, "Haze." SnagFilms premiered it and then we're able to get fraternities and colleges all over the country to show it as a public service announcement that, "Hey, you can die by overdosing on alcohol." And that fraternity life, it's all about drinking and being accepted and that 3,000 kids every year lose their life because of it.
LAMB: Do you buy any of these or rent of these documentaries or lease them to put them on your site?
LEONSIS: Our deal is that we get them from free, and then we split the revenue 50-50, and we sell ads and kind of like a cable model. We're getting $25 per a thousand from, you know, great advertisers. And advertisers want to run their ad in this high quality content. This isn't YouTube video, this is real highly produced with great directors.
The director of Nanking won an Academy Award for the movie, "Twin Towers," has written books, directed, you know, many TV shows released that we met Professional Lighting. You know what you're getting as an advertiser.
And so you're going to see sites like Hulu that takes professionally produced television, and then sells ads around and distributes it online in SnagFilms. I think those are two good precursors of what media will look like over the next 10 years.
LAMB: Can you give us any idea, what a year in revenue is?
LEONSIS: We'll probably do this year a little under $10 million. We'll be profitable probably in our third quarter of this year, so seven quarters of investment and then we'll become profitable.
LAMB: What's the long-term projection?
LEONSIS: For me, I would like to get a million virtual movie theaters open, and I think getting a billion pixels donated by consumers where they can distribute - when you hear a lot in this business about user-generated content like YouTube.
I think a next trend is you're going to see user-distributed content, and that - consumers now, you know, I'm on Facebook, I've got 5,000 friends on Facebook. I can take a movie that's important to me, put it into what's called my Facebook Newsfeed. My 5,000 friends can get an alert that says, "All these is cool new film. Ted really liked it. Do you want to watch it?"
And I think that that's a trend and that you can bring video that way and get distributed and get your message out, I think is something that will bear (ph) watching.
LAMB: Recently, in the middle of your hockey playoffs, you wrote a blog that I read. Your blog is called Ted ...
LEONSIS: Ted's Take.
LAMB: ... Ted's Take and you just talked about a Saturday morning when you were floating through your life and everywhere you went, people had some remarks to make to you about the hockey team. And I kept thinking, why does he want this? I mean in other words, a lot of them are saying nice things to you because you lost the day before.
LEONSIS: Well, I think it goes to show how important a sports team is to the psyche of your community. Suddenly, when the Redskins win on Sunday, Monday there's a happy day in Washington, D.C. that our team has been doing so well, and I think that's a big responsibility.
I don't just want our team to make the playoffs, I don't even want our team just to win a Stanley Cup, I want to make millions and millions of lifelong memories between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. I want immortality for our team, you get your name etched in the Stanley Cup. Nothing brings a city closer together than a winning sports team.
I grew up in New York in the 60s, I'm an only child and my dad used to take me to the Jets games. And I remember the Jets winning the Super Bowl with Joe Namath, and my dad and I watching that game on TV and hugging and crying.
And now we fast-forward 40 years, my father passed away a couple of years ago. And last November, the Colts and the Jets were playing again in the playoffs. And on the NFL channel, they were running that Super Bowl. And I was on the treadmill exercising and I was watching the game, and I had to get off the treadmill, the memories of me and my dad, my growing up, holding his hand walking into that stadium just came flooding back to me. And it was very humbling because that's the business I'm in. I'm in a business when you own a sports team, where you can create a memory that 40 years later, can make a grown man cry.
And so I view owning a sports team - it's a public trust. You have the psychological well-being of millions of people in the palm of your hand. And I think it's no different than being a politician that being a mayor - I was mayor of my town in Florida for a while, and you feel that you're there to represent a large collection of people and hold the mirror up to them. And that's what I think owning a sports team is all about.
LAMB: You were the mayor of Vero Beach?
LEONSIS: Orchid, Florida.
LAMB: Don't you still have a place in Vero Beach?
LEONSIS: I do, we go to Vero Beach. We love it down there and we spend some weekends and holidays there.
LAMB: Now the thing that's - one of the things missing from your book is there are no pictures of your family or any pictures in there, why is that?
LEONSIS: Well, it just wasn't that kind of book and my wife likes a little bit of privacy and so my picture was on the cover. I think we all thought that was enough.
LAMB: What is your prediction as to the future - the things that you've been talking here will be on politics in this country?
LEONSIS: I think that the country right now is growing further and further apart from its government. We're seeing that with the P. Daggers (ph), we're seeing that with our President who came in with such promise, already having fallen popularity.
And I think a big reason for that is that these intermediaries, the media, I mean, what C-SPAN was so brilliant of was, you don't need an editor or a filter to form your own opinion. You should be able to watch and listen unabashedly to what is being done and read and said, that was your founding premise of C-SPAN.
Well, more and more in this new media, we need to have direct connection with those that serve those. I read all of my e-mails. I get 300, 400 e-mails per day. I've done every job at the arena. I'm on Facebook, I blog three, four, five times a day. I read all of the comments. I'm intimate with what is happening and what I see sometimes is when you campaign for office, you really are with the people.
And then you get elected and you go into these hallowed halls and you have all of this security and you start to have what I call the "Theory of Nines." You're a 10 and you get elected. And then you have a nine who becomes your chief of staff, and then he hires eights and then they bring in sevens and before you know it, it's the fours, the people that are really you didn't elect, you didn't - don't want serving you, who are running the country.
And I really think that because now the media and the steering wheel is in the hands of the consumer, that there needs to be a much higher empathy in listening more to what the community at large really wants. And I think sometimes, we in Washington or in New York, the high priest in media, we tune out who our consumer is, and we start to listen to these vital few people that all have their points of view.
And as you well know, D.C. is like no other city in the world. It's very, very disconnected from what's happening in Kansas City. And the media people in New York are very, very disconnected many times, you know, the rest of the country.
LAMB: The book is called, "The Business of Happiness." Our guest is Ted Leonsis and I thank you very much for joining us.
LEONSIS: Thank you, it's an honor to be here and really great to meet you.END