New Yahoo Tech Editor David Pogue Is Enjoying His Freedom

Talks click bait and Web commenting

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni


Who David Pogue

New gig Yahoo Tech editor, writer

Old gig The New York Times tech columnist

Age 51

You left The New York Times to join a Yahoo in progress. What was so attractive about the offer?

It was Yahoo saying, “Do what you want. Write a column, start a website, build a conference.” It was a dazzling offer to build what you want to build.

What’s been the biggest difference going from the Times to running Yahoo’s online tech magazine?

No. 1, the way I can express myself at Yahoo Tech. It can be audio, it can be video, it can be still pictures. I can vary font, timing, frequency, format. I will be filing stories that are dialogue. I will be filing stories in rhyme, stories that are two sentences long because that’s all there is to the story. It’s digital; it can be anything it wants. So for 13 years at The New York Times, which I love, I wrote 1,280 words for every Thursday

Do you feel the pressure to follow the new modes of online journalism with BuzzFeed- style headlines, hyperbole and sensationalism to get clicks?

We have talked a lot about this, and the truth of the matter is those click-bait headlines work; more people click them. On the other hand, they’re kind of sleazy, they’re often deceptive, and they’re sort of a cheap way to get them to click. So we, at Yahoo Tech anyway, have decided not to do that. Our headlines do tend to be complete sentences—but not deceptive and not overblown.

What size audience are you seeing?

Well, after six weeks [from launch in January], the food magazine and our tech magazine combined have had 10 million visitors—a towering, unbelievable number of readers.

You do not allow comments at the moment at Yahoo Tech. I assume that’s because the Internet can be full of trolls.

The comment thing was a personal passion of mine. From the moment I joined Yahoo, one of the first things I said, even in conversations with the folks hiring me, was that comments online can turn into a cesspool really fast, and the problem is once people start attacking each other, the nasty comments drive away the thoughtful [people] who might have stayed to comment. You really need to reinvent comments if you want to have them become a big part of the experience.

So what have you done to eventually include commenting?

Yahoo Labs, the R&D division, is working on a brand new system that will incorporate ratings for other users to vote up and down like on Reddit. Also, there will be editorial control, so if I see a particularly thoughtful comment or two, I can make them pop up to the top. And there are some other new features in store.

What developing technology will hold your interest in the coming months?

Wearable technology. Watches and glasses are really interesting. I don’t think in the forms we’ve seen them they’ll ever become mass hits. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to be. What functions can they accomplish that we can’t already do on our phones less cheaply and without another gadget to charge everyday? But I think they’ll get there.

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