David Pogue describes his journey from studying music at Yale to becoming one of the most prolific and influential technology critics in the world.
David Pogue is as well known a technology critic as you’ll find in the world. He is a master of both old and new media. He is best known for his technology column in the New York Times, but he also has a column in Scientific American. He’s the host of “NOVA ScienceNow” and other science shows on PBS, and he’s been a correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning” since 2002. Pogue has nearly one and a half million followers on Twitter and writes four to five books per year, with over three million of his books in print. He’s won an Emmy, a Loeb award for journalism, and an honorary doctorate in music.
What may be most remarkable for someone who has among the strongest personal brands that you will find is how little planning he has put to developing that brand. Rather, he has largely been reactive as opposed to proactive in his career. When he arrived at the New York Times in 2000, others saw in him an ability to make the esoteric accessible, and thus offers arrived to get involved in other media to continue to pontificate about technology as well as to explain other adjacent fields, such as science. As he mentions below, he has simply continued to answer the phone and say, “yes.”
(An extended video and podcast version of the interview is available at this link.)
Peter High: David, you have quite a non-traditional path to the perch you currently occupy. You were a music major at Yale who dreamt of a career in music. What was your relationship to technology during your formative years?
David Pogue: The key to understanding my career is that I was never into technology. From the beginning, I brought an outsider’s point of view, which is why I write for a layman’s publication. My interest was magic, believe it or not. I became an amateur magician and did something like 400 magic shows through my teen years. My little self-analysis is that consumer technology is the closest thing we have to magic. You push a button and something happens at your command. The things that get me fired up the most have always been the things that seem the most magical. For example, take Siri, handwriting recognition, and Microsoft Kinect.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- For a time, you pursued your passion for music on Broadway, and then in 1988, you began writing for Macworld. Describe, if you would, the pivot from music to writing about technology.
- You covered Apple as part of Macworld during that company’s nadir through to the return of Steve Jobs. What was this period like?
- A key move in your career came in 2000 when you began writing for the New York Times. What was the genesis of that relationship?
- How do you determine what to review and what not to?
- Generally speaking, how do you structure your reviews? What time do you take with things, and how do you kick in the tires on each item you are reviewing?
- As such a sophisticated user of technology, do you often enjoy products that wouldn’t be practical for the average user?
- Are there any trends or new technologies that particularly excite you?