Every once in a while someone asks me who I think the best tech bloggers are and why. It happened today, in fact, back stage at TechCrunch Disrupt.
I also have blogging on the mind in general after reading Jason Kincaid’s new book today.
Here’s my short answer – A great tech blogger needs to be exceptionally good at (1) breaking big stories, (2) writing powerful thought pieces, and (3) doing live interviews.
In my mind, there are just three or four great tech bloggers in the world.
The average tech blogger, which is just a commodity, probably isn’t good at any of these things.
They’ll muddle through a story that’s been handed to them, often leaving readers confused and bored. They won’t try to write thought pieces about the state of (or future of) the industry (although they’ll occasionally write outrage articles and think they’re adding to a discussion). And if they’re ever in a position to do a live interview they’ll be nervous, possibly sycophantic and definitely boring.
A good tech blogger, which is someone who’ll develop an independent following on social media and be an asset at any publication, will usually excel at one of the first two categories – either they have enough sources and reporting skills to break stories (you need both), or they’re smart and articulate enough to write interesting columns about technology. But not both. Those people can usually become passably good interviewers, too, once they overcome stage fright and learn to listen.
Then there are the great tech bloggers. These are the bloggers who attract others to them, and are able to build teams and companies around their personalities.
They break big stories without even pausing to watch as everyone else tries to catch up. On a slow news day, or just because they’re feeling it, they’ll write about something that shakes the industry, or focuses everyone’s attention for a time, or from which new companies are born. And they are naturally ferocious interviewers.
Sometimes someone is extremely good at just one category, so good that they rise to the very top of their profession. But for whatever reason they can’t crack the other category. It almost seems like having the skills needed for one category mean it’s much less likely they’ll have the skills for the other.
So when people ask me who the best of the best are, I talk in these terms. This person breaks stories but isn’t a thought leader at all. That person writes fascinating, thoughtful stories but has never broken news. Or they haven’t figured out how to maestro an interview yet.
So who are the legends in the industry today? I’m not going to say, but I’m happy to listen to your thoughts, below.
Kara Swisher and Om Malik are two I’d put in this group
disagree? “legend” is, of course, a strong word
Om is, clearly. I don’t know if I’ve read enough thought pieces by Kara to have an opinion.
The trouble with legendary tech bloggers is they are lousy succession planners.
I actually don’t think I’ve ever heard Gruber interview anyone. But I love his writing.
Agreed. But on two of the three categories you have listed, his credentials with respect to Apple are second to none. As evidenced by this ringing endorsement from Steve Jobs? (http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/10/steve-jobs-responds-to-iphone-sdk-complaints-intermediate-layers-produce-sub-standard-apps/)
Have never seen MG interview, but he certainly nails the other two.
Reblogged this on Adam Bagnall.
For me MG Siegler writes some of the best pieces and has a style that keeps it interesting. I’m a big fan of his use of pop culture references to get the point across, often in an amusing way.
I like Kara but she bores me. I love Om’s writing. But I love your interviews Mike. Why? Because you can talk tech to the everyday person. The non techie can relate to you and Understand what you are saying.
I think MG Siegler and you are possible examples.
It’s actually one of the reasons I think it’s a shame Jason Kincaid left the game – because I think he was at very least on track to being in that category (that said, his book looks great, so maybe it’s a net win?)
In his book he talks about why he eventually left. The business wears you down and changes you. But he’s so young still, he’s got many great thing ahead of him.
Interesting. Looking forward to reading it!
Steven Levy and Mat Honan are unique snowflakes.
I’ll say Jason Calacanis.
I mean, have you even read whatever the fuck you call this.
I haven’t seen most tech bloggers interview anyone, with the exception of Sarah Lacy. I think she does a great job in the PandoMonthy series.
I also think Benedict Evans (now at A16Z) does a great job. He writes very insightful and data-generated pieces and while he hasn’t interviewed as much, his podcasts where he interviews people are engaging.
My favorite tech journalist is Clive Thompson. He only delivers content occassionally (monthly column in Wired) but it’s always awesome. I think he’d need to get more active to claim the “legend” title or even the “blogger” job title.
Ben Thompson of Stratechery (http://stratechery.com). Great thought pieces every week. Not a legend yet, but if he keeps it up for another few years, he will be.
Your observations apply to the TechCrunch mold of tech blogs. Anand Lal Shimpi probably hasn’t done many an interview.
Time to take note. Thanks for the great tips! I wish I could get some decent live interviews on my site in the future. Never really thought of it but it’s perfect for unique content. Will try to feature on my own side at Can’t wait to try this and review it. Thanks for the tip Kevin 🙂 Will try and feature on SEO Tutorial by Jamie Irwin too. 🙂
Sure, OM is a great tech blogger but undoubtedly you are greatest.
John batelle comes to my mind
Richard Waters. I pay for good tech blogging, and other FT news.