Hanson Hosein, host of Four Peaks, recently spoke with GeekWire co-founder and acclaimed tech writer Todd Bishop about his transition to owning his own publication and lessons learned through engaging new audiences. GeekWire, a locally-based independent technology news site and online community, covers people, companies and innovations emerging from the Pacific Northwest. As a sponsor of Four Peaks, we wanted to know more! So we reached out to Todd to learn about his thoughts on the Seattle tech market, mobile connectivity, business values and more. Check out our interview below.
Q: How does mobile connectivity affect your professional and personal daily routine?
A: This has clearly been the biggest game-changer for me as a journalist over the past decade, coming out of the world of newspapers. Keep in mind that we started out with a communications cycle that literally took a full day, with readers receiving our stories in rolls of paper on their doorsteps. That concept is truly mind-boggling to me now.
Mobile connectivity has made the distribution of information instantaneous, from almost anywhere, which has fundamentally changed the way we do our jobs as reporters. My favorite example was the Angry Birds launch event last year at the Space Needle. As I was walking up to the event, I decided on a whim to download a live-streaming app to my phone, and I was able to start streaming from the event in about 10 minutes. An hour later, we had hundreds of people tuning in on GeekWire.
When I complained on the webcast that I hadn’t had my morning coffee, three people brought me lattes. Now that’s influence!
Of course, the big risk in all of this, for all of us, is that pervasive connectivity and the constant flow of information makes us less inclined to take time for the deep reflection that can lead to insight and change, both journalistically and personally. This is something we wrestle with at GeekWire, and we’re constantly looking to carve out more time for the most meaningful stories.
Q: What do you love most about the Seattle tech market?
A: The sheer energy of the technology community in the Seattle region is a special and rare asset — something that shouldn’t be underestimated.
The interplay between the startup community and the larger technology companies is also a critical and important dynamic, as people leave Microsoft, Amazon and others to pursue startup ideas informed by their experiences at those companies — and sometimes even return to those companies with the benefit of their new experiences.
Looking forward, I’m also excited to see the region start to establish itself in the new world of commercial space exploration, building on its heritage in software and aerospace.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my own personal style, but I also like the fact that our region isn’t as susceptible to the frenzy that often surrounds new technologies and startups that quickly flame out in places like Silicon Valley. We’re a little more measured and steady here, and as long as that character trait doesn’t make us averse to risk, I think it can work to our benefit in the long run.
Q: How do you subjectively and fairly report on competing tech-giants, most of which garner loyal followers?
A: I try to use the technology as much as I possibly can, and use that first-hand experience to inform what I write, explicitly or implicitly. Any coverage of tech giants will inevitably be criticized or praised by fans of one company or another — it gets almost religious at times — but the best approach as a tech journalist is to work from first-hand experience.
Q: What’s the most important business value you apply to your work and why?
A: I work very hard, for better or worse. I’m driven to dig up information and get stuff done, at all hours. My colleague John Cook and I have this in common, and it’s probably the biggest reason we’ve been able to work together so well for more than a decade now. We’re fortunate to have supportive families and great colleagues at GeekWire who put up with this character trait.
Q: When thinking about modern marketing communications in the tech world, how would you define “effective engagement”?
A: It might sound like a simple thing, but our recipe for effective engagement is to focus as much as possible on the value we’re providing to our readers, partners and customers. How can we best apply or change what we do to provide value to them, and to grow our business in the process? Can we deliver that value in an unexpected way?
Our business partner Jonathan Sposato, who has led several successful startups, uses words like “delightful” and “surprising” when talking about the qualities of good product development. These are not words that our former newspaper editors used, and certainly as journalists, our goal is not to delight the subjects of our stories. However, our hope more broadly for GeekWire is to adopt more of these types of qualities as we try to engage more effectively with the people and companies we serve.
Want to learn more? Check out Todd’s FourPeaks episode on UWTV airing on January 26th at 4pm and 27th at 9pm to see Todd unveil his brand’s storytelling evolution. You can also view the episode this weekend on Northwest Cable News-channel 2 on Comcast.