An Interview with Boy Genius about the Web, iPad Dominance, and Nokia’s Death

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By: Hillel Fuld

There are not many websites or authors who I can say directly affected and inspired me to start blogging, but over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to interview almost all of them. People like Walt Mossberg of the Wall St. Journal, David Pogue of the NY Times, and MG Siegler of TechCrunch are just a few examples. Jonathan Geller, a.k.a Boy Genius is right up there on the list.

Jonathan Geller, the founder of Boy Genius Report is a leading name in the online world of tech publications, and rightfully so. The man is a master at breaking stories. BGR was originally founded in 2006 and by 2010, was acquired by MMC after being named one of the Web’s top 100 blogs.

Over the years, Jonathan has broken some major stories such as the first hands-on with the wildly popular Amazon Kindle as well as Android 2.0. Interestingly, Jonathan did not reveal his identity until recently and was only known as Boy Genius across the Web, which changed n 2010 when he made his personal identity known to all. Jonathan is well regarded as a tech guru and was named among the top 100 most influential people in tech right alongside Steve Jobs, Barak Obama, and other huge names.

I guess I do not need to tell you how awesome (in the traditional sense of the word) it is to have had the opportunity to interview Jonathan. I have to say, despite his tremendous success, the guy is as down to earth and modest as anyone I’ve ever met. That is something you cannot say for many people who have achieved success on Jonathan’s level.

The following are ten questions I asked Boy Genius along with his answers. I hope you enjoy them, I know I definitely learned a lot:

1: As I told you, I have been reading your blog (Can it even be called that anymore?) since I can remember. Please tell me how you started BGR, what led to its tremendous success, and how you came up with that name.

Thanks so much for reading! I look at BGR as a resource for breaking and exclusive news, in-depth opinions and analysis, product reviews — I’ve never been a fan of the term blog, to be honest. BGR is definitely more of an online publication than a blog. BGR was started after I was breaking stories on Engadget for almost five months, and I wanted more control over what I was doing and what I was sharing, so I felt the need to start a new site by myself.

Boy Genius was a name that was given to me by a friend of mine, hip-hop producer Just Blaze, since I was only 16 and showing him all of these unreleased phones and gadgets, and was incredibly thorough in my knowledge of tech and computers. It was one of those nicknames that stuck.

2: What was the most impressive technology/gadget you ever reviewed?

That’s tough. I’d have to say my favorite would be the BlackBerry Curve 8300 since I reviewed it so long before it was released and no one had ever seen that device before. It was definitely one of my favorite BlackBerry smartphones.

3: What are five devices you use in your personal life on a regular basis and why?

The main device would be my main computer that I use most of the time, and that’s the latest generation MacBook Air. I love this thing because it’s powerful enough to be used daily, and it’s portable enough to practically go anywhere. I do find it a little slow, though, so I’ll be upgrading as soon as they are refreshed. I have a Mac Pro that I have set up in my home office for when I’m not in the main office, and that’s something I use to do heavy photo work, audio editing, video editing, or other tasks. I use a white iPhone 4 as my primary phone, a white iPad 2, and a Samsung Galaxy S II when I want to use an Android device. The last three, are in my opinion, the best in class, and that’s why I use them.

4: How do you see the mobile industry developing over the next decade in terms of Apple, Google, Nokia, and Microsoft?

Unfortunately I don’t see Nokia around for much longer, the mobile part of the company anyway. It was reported that Microsoft was trying to purchase either some or all of Nokia’s mobile division, and I believe that some company ultimately will.

5: When it comes to tablets, for something that barely existed just a few years ago, it has taken off in a major way. What do you think about this space? Will it go mainstream and which company will dominate over the next few years?

Tablets are incredibly interesting. It’s a category that actually doesn’t make much sense on paper, and that’s why Apple has succeeded so greatly. They have taken something that Microsoft tried to achieve for years, and made it work because they looked at it differently. The enjoyment of using a device like an iPad — how easy it is to use, how fast it feels, the fact that it doesn’t get hot, there are no fans, it lasts for days or weeks on a single charge — that’s what really defines this category and what every other manufacturer is copying. Apple is clearly in the lead, and from the looks if it, they will continue to be. Tablets I believe, along with smartphones, will eventually be our main devices because it will connect to any sort of peripherals automatically like a mouse, keyboard, and monitor.

6: Do you think the various app stores will continue to grow at this pace and how will they change in the coming years?

Sure. I think the app store concept is fantastic in giving people a single place to browse, find, download / purchase and install content. App stores have existed long before the iPhone, but it wasn’t until Apple did it where things really took off. The Danger Sidekick was one of the first devices I can remember that had a place to purchase all of this content in one location that was preloaded on every phone. I think we’ll see app stores evolving to encompass more and more content going forward, for instance with Apple, digital distribution is clearly it — no more DVDs or loading applications, you’ll save on packaging, making it less expensive for the consumer,  easier to install and update, these are all advantages of app stores and how Apple’s continuing to innovate in the industry.

7: What are five tips you would give to a new mobile entrepreneur to stand out from the crowd?

First you need that idea / concept / unique product, but beyond that, networking is super important, and working more than your competitors is something else that will set you apart. Being aggressive without being overly aggressive, and having fun.

8: As a blogger, I would love to hear your thoughts on what an online publication can do to stand out? Focus on content, SEO, social media, etc

Well, you have to have an angle. There has to be a differentiator between you and your content vesus every other site out there. Why are people going to come to your site? What’s special about your content? To me, content is king. That’s honestly the only thing I ever focused on when I was running BGR independently, just making sure the content on the site was the highest quality, having a unique perspective, and making sure it was something that I’d want to read myself. SEO is certainly something to focus on even just up to a certain baseline. Making sure everything is in order there can only help long term with growth, but it’s only going to matter if you have good content. I like to look at social media as more of a communications tool than a traffic tool, it’s just my point of view on it. It’s so personal that I haven’t wanted to push things onto people, but let them come across it naturally. You can definitely use something like a Facebook page as a starting point, though.

9: What role do you see the social Web taking in the success of your site and others like it? Is social media as big as the hype implies or is it overrated?

I think it goes both ways. There’s definitely noise in the social space now, but at the same time, it’s enabled people to share information quickly and effortlessly, and the momentum it can have is truly incredible.

10. When you started BGR, what were you intentions and did you ever thing it would achieve what it has? Where do you see you and BGR in five years from now?

When I started BGR, it’s sole purpose was to share the information that I had with the world. I originally was in the music industry and was doing BGR on the side, but when I saw BGR starting to take off, my priorities shifted a bit, and that’s when I saw BGR’s growth really explode and saw this as something that was a real business. I see BGR being a brand that not only tech and gadget fans know of, but a brand that general consumers in the marketplace trust as well. We’ve just launched BGR Germany with United Internet Group in Europe and BGR India with Zee Entertainment in India — these are two countries where we now have strategic partnerships and practically no competition. Our partnerships in those two countries alone allow the BGR brand to reach up to hundreds of millions of people. I see more strategic partnerships like these in more countries. I also see BGR moving beyond just an online publication into different TV, radio, and other extensions.

Jon, thanks a lot for the opportunity to interview you and huge congratulations on your tremendous success. I look forward to reading your interesting and breaking content for years to come.


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hilzfuld

Hillel is Co Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. Hillel also blogs for many influential sites including TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more. Hillel has been named Israel's top marketer, has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, and many others and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts program. You can find and talk to Hillel on Twitter. He is @Hilzfuld.