Our guest on this episode of the GeekWire podcast:Ina Fried, the San Francisco-based chief technology correspondent for Axios, a new media company founded by former executives of the Politico news site with an eye toward original reporting, breaking news and “smart narration” of the day’s news.
Important background: Fried covers a wide range of tech stories for Axios and writes the daily Axios Login email newsletter. She worked previously for sites including CNet News, AllThingD and Recode, with years of experience covering some of the most influential companies and most important technologies in the world.
What we discussed: New models of journalism; the quick-read format popularized by Axios and other sites; the biggest stories and trends in tech; diversity and inclusion in the industry; Seattle vs. Silicon Valley; the next iPhone unveiling; Microsoft’s revival, Amazon’s growth, baseball’s Apple Watch scandal, and more.
How to listen: Use the player below or download the MP3, and continue reading for edited highlights.
On writing in the punchy Axios style: “For me, it’s been less hard because I tend to write short anyway, so I tend to think in this sort of way. It’s like stringing a few tweets together, and you have a story. For me, that’s gold. I was doing that before. I think it would be hard for a lot of journalists.
“I think where it’s toughest is when you have a story with some nuance and some depth. How do you do that? You have to be pretty clever to do it in a couple of short stories or if you have a really good interview, it can be a little tough when there’s a lot of material or a lot of nuance.
“The way that Mike Allen, who is our primary columnist and writes our morning newsletter for the main site, describes it is, ‘What would you tell someone over a cup of coffee about what you’ve been covering, and what would you tell your friend?’ I think that’s a great way to think about it.”
On the most interesting issues and trends in tech: “It’s somewhat far off but we’re starting to have this conversation around what guardrails do we want to put in place around AI. … It really is the time, before we’ve made the breakthroughs. Once that happens it’s going to be too late. Same with self-driving cars. I think we need some of the rules ahead of time, which is challenging. Tech isn’t very good at putting gates on its own progress and even worse is politics. So tech just won’t put them up and policy often puts the wrong guardrails up.
“So I think those are interesting intersections of tech and policy. As a consumer, as a user of tech, what’s interesting is augmented reality and some of the ways that what we do in our everyday life is starting to change again. I think there was this sense that mobile had kind of played out, and I don’t think that’s true at all. I just think there’s only so much hardware we can cram into the phone. But now we can do all kinds of things next to the phone.”
On the tech industry’s awakening to issues of diversity and harassment: “I think we have had a longer conversation about sexual harassment and diversity than at any time I can remember, which has me somewhat hopeful, and there are enough people continuing it. But systemic change hasn’t happened. It’s not like the money has suddenly moved from predominantly men to equal opportunity, so I think the need for real change remains.
“I’m hopeful but cautious that more actual change will happen. I think what happened in the very immediate wake was a bunch of things that had been tolerated forever were suddenly unacceptable, but they were unacceptable for a small slice of venture capital and a small slice of executives at the largest tech companies. I think the next step is for that sort of behavior to be broadly unacceptable within technology companies. I don’t think we’re there yet.”
On the economic viability of journalism: “I definitely see journalism continuing to be a challenging business model. I think tech has always benefited or long benefited from being an overcovered area. I think we’re very fortunate. It’s good for tech journalists. It’s good for the tech industry. I think the real need, though, is a broader civic-minded journalism. And I think we’re still looking for some of that. I certainly hope and believe that Axios is onto something and I feel like we’re doing good journalism in a way that people like to consume it.
“I would say similar about BuzzFeed. Their news division is great. They cover legal issues politics, LGBT issues, really well and they’re funding it with fun content that people like to read. And I think that’s good. You know, newspapers were funded by a weird mix of department store ads and classifieds and there were comics. It was just this strange bundle that worked for a time. Journalism needs the strange bundle of the future and I think BuzzFeed, Vox and Axios, those are probably some of the ones that I’d point to.”
On the allegations that the Red Sox used an Apple Watch to help steal signs. “Crazy news. I mean obviously it’s not news that a team from Boston is cheating, but anyone using the Apple Watch for serious work, that’s interesting. No, it’s really interesting, because stealing signs is actually not illegal, but it is illegal to communicate electronically. You can have a runner on second looking and seeing what’s going on and somehow relaying that using hand signals and they’ve been doing that for a long, long time.
“But technology has really evolved to the point that you can break down video and you can actually see signs, no matter how sophisticated. So the rule is in place to try and prevent the real-time communication of that. One of the bench coaches or base coaches can subtly look at their Apple Watch. Nobody expects much from the Apple Watch, is the moral of the story.”
One problem with Apple Watch is not enough compelling, must-have use cases. Scrappy Boston start up addressing https://t.co/FwC3zG9g1P