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Job Interview

[whitespace] Bob Pittman

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Recently, more than 200 high-tech advertising execs crowded into a Sheraton Palace ballroom way before 9am. Why? Not just to pass out cards, snag some new business and network with other San Francisco Ad Club members (although there was plenty of that going on). They came to hear Bob Pittman. Something of a guru in new-media circles, this is the man who nearly two decades ago started MTV and now heads up the largest online service in the world: America Online. Associate editor David Boyer caught up with Bob as he moved from podium to car to airport. Literally. And he got a little taste of what it's like to be Bob.

David: What is your job?

Bob: I'm the president and chief operating officer of AOL. I do lots of meetings. I do nothing but problems, all the good stuff other people do. I spend a lot of time worrying about what might go wrong.

David: Do you like it?

Bob: I love my job. It's stimulating. I think if you're in a life where everybody gives you all the problems, you spend all of your time trying to come up with solutions, so it always keeps the mind working.

David: How did you start?

Bob: I started as a disc jockey at age 15. I started MTV. I ran Six Flags theme parks and Century 21. What I do is understand consumers. And that's the link [between all of these jobs].

David: How long have you been doing it?

Bob: I've been at AOL about 18 months.

David: And what's the biggest change online you've seen in that time?

Bob: Mass-market consumers coming on board--people who don't love their computers, but love what their computer can do for them.

David: Do you hang out with people you work with outside of work?

Bob: Sure ... some. I think, as in any great work environment, you wind up hanging out with the people you work with a lot.

David: If you weren't doing this, what might you be doing?

Bob: Sleeping. I would relax, I would enjoy my time off, I'd ride motorcycles, I'd do whatever.

David: Favorite movie you've seen in the last six months?

Bob: I've seen movies in that last six months, but none of them pop to mind as a favorite ... but definitely not Titanic.

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From the May 4-17, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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