An Interview with Mathew Ingram of GigaOM on Journalism, Social, and The Next Big Thing

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By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

Over the years, I have followed and connected with a whole lot of amazing people in the tech industry. In case you hadn’t noticed, I decided a while back that I wanted to do more than read their tweets, and started conducting interviews. You can see all those interviews here.

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Now truth be told, I have been fortunate enough to interview some pretty amazing people over the years, the latest one being the legendary Steve Wozniak, ya know, the founder of Apple… Mathew Ingram, a Senior Writer at GigaOM and one of the most interesting people in my Twitter feed has a nice spot at the top of my list.

I have been following Mathew closely for years, reading every single tweet and article that he writes and if you think that is easy, you are not following him closely enough. He writes a LOT. Somehow thought, Mathew’s articles and tweets are always insightful and among the most spot-on in the entire pool of tech journalists. So I am a big fan and super excited to have interviewed him. I asked him some tough questions but as always, he gave some pretty fantastic insights in this responses. Enjoy!

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1: Who is Mathew Ingram? Where did you come from and how did you get here? Both personally and professionally.

I’m just a regular Canadian kid who grew up all over the place because my dad was in the Air Force. I went to university and got an English degree and didn’t really know what to do with it, so I went to journalism school and eventually got a job at a newspaper in Toronto. I met Om Malik at a web conference that I helped start in 2006 and we kept in touch over the years and eventually he convinced me to join him at Gigaom in 2010. I figured it was a good time to get out of the print business and I think I was right about that.

​2: Let’s jump right in. I think Twitter must have a whole server for your tweets alone so I will ask you what so many are wondering. How do you do it all? How do you tweet, reply, write, analyze, and carry out your family life in 24 hours? What is your secret? Feel free to list some tools that you use.

I think the secret, if I have one, is that I don’t watch TV — I guess the internet is kind of my television, so the hours most people spend watching the tube are time I spend looking for interesting things to read, and getting in arguments with people online, and one of the best places to do both of those things is on Twitter. As far as tools go, the only one I really use is Tweetdeck, and I send links that I favorite to Instapaper automatically with If This Then That.
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3: Let’s talk tech. What phone do you use personally and why? What are your thoughts on the whole iOS vs Android thing?

I use an Android — a Google Nexus 4 at the moment. I used an iPhone up until a year and a half or so ago, and I really liked it, but eventually I got curious about how much more open the Android platform is and frustrated by some of the things Apple doesn’t let you do, and so I switched. And I haven’t looked back. Apple has great hardware, but I think they are too closed and too restrictive when it comes to the software and services they integrate with it — iTunes alone is enough to drive anyone away from Apple.

4: If last year we saw a lot of photo sharing apps, and this year endless messaging apps, what do you think we can expect to be the next big consumer trend in mobile?

That’s hard to say, but I’m kind of surprised we haven’t seen community-oriented apps of some kind — something like Reddit or 4chan but specifically designed for mobile — take off in any real way. Maybe Secret is sort of like that, I don’t know. It seems like a natural to me, but many of those sites don’t seem to be spending a lot of time trying to appeal to mobile users, which is ironically exactly the same thing traditional media is doing.
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5: What about wearables? Do you wear any? Do you believe this will be as big as others predict? Why or why not?

I don’t have any right now, but I am interested in “quantified self” style wearables like Fitbit and the Jawbone Up — I am just not sure I want to see in great detail how out of shape I am. As far as smart watches and that sort of thing goes, I am kind of a skeptic — I think they will appeal to the same tiny segment of the nerd population that calculator watches did for an earlier generation, but I don’t see them or Google Glass becoming anything close to mainstream — not for a long time anyway.

6: As far as your actual job, what excites you in terms of coverage? When I say “you”, I also mean GigaOM. How do you choose what to cover and what to pass on?

The things that excite me change from day to day, so it’s really hard to predict what is going to catch my interest — but I am almost always interested in certain themes, like open vs. closed ecosystems, privacy, free speech and that kind of thing. And the death of newspapers, of course, and the rise of new media platforms.
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7: What was it like to work with the great Om? Do you still work together at all? Tell me a story about him maybe no one knows. I may or may not be a huge fan of Om.​

Om has eased himself out of the day-to-day somewhat, but we still talk a lot, and he gives me great feedback on ideas, and we see each other whenever I am in San Francisco. A few weeks ago we spent some time together in Italy and it was great to just hang out and drink cappuccino and shoot the breeze about the web and startups and whatnot. He is great to bounce ideas off, and I hope I will always have the chance to do that. One of these days I might even convince him to come visit me in Toronto.

8: Lets jump over to the world of entrepreneurship. What are three tips you would tell a startup founder that you have learned from dealing with so many over the years? What are three do’s and don’t’s?

I would never claim to have any secrets about starting or running companies, but I know that the entrepreneurs I have admired over the years are always the ones who are passionate about what they are doing for some reason other than just making money — someone once said that passion will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no passion. And they are almost always honest, even about their flaws and mistakes, which is difficult to do. And they always give the news scoops about their companies to Gigaom first 🙂
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9: What about geographies as far as innovation is concerned? Does it even matter where you are today? I mean, we all know of Silicon Valley and ahem, Tel Aviv, but can anyone create a unicorn from other places as well, or should startups relocate to where the action is? (Yes, I know you are in Toronto.)

That’s a really tough question — I think Silicon Valley has a culture unlike almost any other, but that doesn’t mean other places can’t incubate startups or a startup mentality. It just takes a few entrepreneurs who have had a couple of wins to stick around and invest their time and money in their homeland, and I think we’ve seen in Israel and elsewhere that doing so can really pay off.

10: Where do you see yourself in a few years? I know you have strong opinions on the state of online journalism. Do you see yourself continuing to offer your content for free? Possibly a subscription model (I would pay.), or something else we have not seen yet?

That’s hard to say — I am still having a great time at Gigaom, so I haven’t really thought about where else or how else I might write, although I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the kind of model that Andrew Sullivan is using for the Daily Dish, where he is funded directly by readers. That said, however, I like to have my stuff seen by as many people as possible, and paywalls sort of interfere with that approach. All I can say is that I hope to be able to keep writing until they pry the mouse and keyboard out of my cold, dead hands.


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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.