Writing for an Audience Who is your audience?
The shift from hits to niches is a rich seam, manifest in all sorts of surprising places. This blog is where I'm going to collect everything I can about it.
I live in Berkeley, California with my wife and five small children. Prior to taking over Wired in mid-2001, I was with The Economist for seven years in London, Hong Kong and New York in various positions, ranging from Technology Editor to US Business Editor. My background is in science, starting with studying physics and doing research at Los Alamos and culminating in six years at the two leading scientific journals, Nature (where I met my wife) and Science. A more personal history is here .
[Disclosures: Many. First, financial: I am the non-executive Chairman and a shareholder of BookTour, a company I co-founded in 1997. In March 2009 Amazon took a minority share in the company.
I am also the founder of DIY Drones and 3D Robotics, a company that makes robotics equipment. Our business partners include Sparkfun and Make Magazine.
More importantly, I am, unavoidably, conflicted because I live in the world I write about. I have friends, sometimes close, in many of the companies I discuss. I've run brainstorming sessions for some of them and spoken at others. Although I own no shares in any company mentioned on this blog, the book, or Wired Magazine (aside from my two startups mentioned above), I do speak for hire. I used to refuse money for speaking gigs, donating it to charity or sending it to my publisher in the form of book sales, but then my wife rightly asked how, exactly, she benefited from me spending most of my life on the road. So now I travel less (only half the time, as opposed to 80%) and usually get paid for it.
When I feel that my connection to a company, whether through a friendship or a business relationship, risks coloring my judgment as an editor, I usually recuse myself from that story. (I do so with Amazon, for instance) When it risks doing the same as a writer, I try not to write about the company at all. But there are plenty of examples, such as Google, Yahoo! or eBay, where this is not possible--I can't avoid writing about them nor can I not associate with their people (let that be a disclosure, then; I have friends at all three). I frankly don't know what to do about that. The list of my potential and real conflicts is impossibly long and I find it arbitrary to only list the conflicts that involve money (such as a paid speaking gig), since the friendships are much more likely to influence me.
So for those of you who care about such things, be forewarned: I don't follow (or believe in) j-school standards of impartiality. The only thing I will promise is that I have no financial stake in the future prospects of companies I write about, which means no investments of any kind in them (again, the startups mentioned above aside). If I praise them it will be because I'm honestly impressed, not because I hope to share in their financial success.]