Why are Pogue, Mossberg & Swisher Leaving the NYT & WSJ?


Following the recent news that Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at AllThingsD will be leaving after 11 years to start a new technology writing and conference business, David Pogue announced that he’s leaving the New York Times after 13 years. Pogue will be joining a new consumer technology site at Yahoo.

There are some reports/rumors that Mossberg and Swisher were pushed out of the Wall St. Journal, which has also announced it will expand “the Journal’s technology coverage and conference franchise, including the addition of 20 editorial staff. (By the way, Mossberg has worked at the Journal for far longer than 11 years — the 11 years is based on the launch of AllThingsD.) Mossberg and Swisher’s contract runs through Dec. 31, 2013, and they have said that they will launch a new business as of Jan. 1, 2014.

What’s interesting is this: regardless of whether Mossberg and Swisher were pushed out, they will launch a new platform. (Hard to imagine that they’ll be able to launch a competing business while still writing for the Journal but I have every confidence that they will be successful). And regardless to how Pogue is leaving (there have been grumblings regarding conflicts of interest in terms of reviewing Apple technology when he also has had publishing contracts for how-to books on those same products), these departures raise a couple of interesting questions:

  • All three are hardworking, knowledgeable and have incredible industry connections — but how much of their success has been the result of the platform they’ve had for the last decade? In other words, were they the top of the industry because they worked at the New York Times and Wall St. Journal or were they working at the NYT and WSJ because they are the best reporters out there? (Again, I’ve worked with them over the years, and have always read their columns and articles — and they are terrific reporters and reviewers.)
  • How important are they to their respective tech sections? Based on my experience, lots of people open their Thursday editions to read the latest reviews from Mossberg and Pogue. So, will readers still turn to the Thursday tech sections as avidly as they did until now? I’m betting that there will be a fall-off because I think readers respect Mossberg and Pogue and because they’ve built up credibility over the past decade-plus.
  • Will their new endeavors keep them at the pinnacle of the industry? I think Mossberg and Swisher definitely will maintain their ranks — because of the conference business. Pogue has hinted at more than blog posts, reviews and video — but launching a successful conference is tough. Mossberg and Swisher have done it and should be able to do so again. The question is whether Pogue, who is also busy serving as technology correspondent for “CBS News Sunday Morning,” columnist for Scientific American and the host of a series on technology on the PBS program “Nova,” has the time and inclination to build a conference business. That said, by keeping his position with CBS News Sunday Morning, Pogue will also maintain his position at the top of the field.
  • That said, while I know online is usurping print, I still wonder if their new online platforms Yahoo for Pogue and To-Be-Named-Later for Mossberg and Swisher, will attract as much attention/traffic as the NYTimes.com or WSJ.com?
  • For Mossberg and Swisher, will their new site provide subscriber-only access — a paywall to generate revenue even before generating advertising revenue? With Pogue, the established Yahoo! platform indicates his new site would be free — but still leaves open the question: how does it become self-sustaining?. 

However this plays out, it’s clear that reporters these days can find new ways to monetize their reviews and articles beyond print newspapers. But the further fragmentation of the media makes developing an audience that much more challenging for Mossberg, Swisher and Pogue — and that much more challenging for those of us who follow and pitch them.

Let me know what you think.

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