Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Michael Rundle, tech editor at The Huffington Post, on pretending to live in the future, why every part of the tech channel is PR-tastic, and jet pack technology...
Pre-HuffPo you worked in news and men's lifestyle – what led you to technology?
I basically want to live in the future and writing about tech is an interesting way to pretend that I do. But more than that, I think with any beat I've had - crime, government, quirky news - tech has always been in there somewhere. In the modern world, tech is about more than phones and gaming consoles, it's everything.
Even my first job, which was to cover the New York City transport system, was a tech beat from a certain point of view. Around 13m gallons of water are pumped out of the subway each day - when it's not raining. If the constant battle to keep the trains running in the face of that onslaught isn't a tech story, I'm not sure what is.
Men's lifestyle also has an obvious tech element. And over the last year for HuffPost News I've written about tech and business often in relation to the London riots, the economy and the uprising in Syria, to name a few areas.
Your content ranges from video reviews to Nasa's find in the Arctic Ocean – how do you decide what to cover and what makes the tech stories you cover different from other sites?
We want to reach people through their passions, and make them as exhilarated as we are by the very coolest, the most intelligent, and sometimes the silliest, applications of tech we can find. And we want to write about tech that will change peoples' lives - whether in good ways or bad. The new hit iPhone game or updated phone isn't as interesting to us as an app which can help doctors diagnose autism in children, for instance, something we wrote about recently.
We're not a site for encyclopaedic phone reviews or minutia about in-fighting at various East London start-ups. We don't want to write Sunday supplement-style lists of apps everyone already knows about, or publish glossy pictures of earphones and laptops. We want to break stories which are about the impact and role of technology, not the specs of a mobile phone.
Talk us through the key tech channels on the site. Which are the most popular?
Some of the main topics we cover include gadgets (releases, reviews and news), innovation (ideas, inventions and applications of tech), science (health, theory, space exploration), gaming (news, reviews, nostalgia) and social life (social networking). We also have areas which cover business, privacy and security.
Which do you think are most PRable?
Every area on the site is equally PR-tastic if you have an interesting story or a good idea.
What advice would you give to PRs when pitching?
Be succinct. And tell me how the product/interview/idea could change somebody's life. The CTO of your company may be a very interesting executive, but if the product or idea he's pitching is dull we aren't interested.
How do you want PRs to send you products to review?
Before everyone else, preferably.
There is one well-known tech editor who will only receive PR pitches via Twitter. Would you ever go down that route?
No, email is also fine. I've considered only accepting pitches via carrier pigeon but it's not compatible with animal welfare legislation.
Ever interested in hearing from experts, or do you tend to find them yourselves?
Both. Experts are generally people who know what they are talking about, so it's always helpful to know more. The problems occur when we disagree about whether that's true...
PRs should remember HuffPost carries blog posts and opinion pieces as well as news. If your expert just has something to say and wants to do so in their own words, we'd love to talk about them blogging for the site.
How important is video content?
It depends - sometimes a story relies on it, occasionally it adds very little. We consider each story on its own merits. But as with infographics, the key is to use the medium for what it does best. An infographic which is actually a paragraph of text in different colours and fonts is no use to us, and a video which is a series of still product shots with some cool backing music is also a bit pointless. Having said that, if you have a video you could send us, it's best just to send it and let us decide.
What about exclusives?
Having stories nobody else has is obviously an important part of any news site. But generally the best exclusives tend to come through hard work, diligent reporting and good ideas on the part of journalists - and not getting a press release an hour before everyone else.
Huffington Post is obviously big on social media. Are you a big fan personally?
It's impossible to do a good job of running a website and not use social media - but it's also important to give journalists space to think and develop their own ideas. You can spend all day on Twitter reacting to news as it happens, but what's the point of speaking if you don't have anything new to tell anyone?
If you do follow me on Twitter you should also expect to endure several weekly updates about the New York Mets baseball team and the cult rockstar Andrew WK. For which I cannot in good conscience apologise.
Which social media tool do you think lends itself best to pushing news out there?
Personally I like Twitter most, as it's both the simplest and the quickest tool we have to break news. But in traffic terms Facebook is still more important. Rebel Mouse, a new social aggregator launched this month by a former HuffPoster, is also interesting. But if you're doing things right, your own site should be the best platform you have to break your news. Fortunately this is something at which the HuffPost is very good.
You link up to outside blogs like Apple blog TUAW. What would a tech blog need to have to get a link to the HuffPo site?
Being a part of AOL helps - TUAW, Engadget and Techcrunch are AOL properties. But we also link straight through to other external sites if they have exclusives or a unique take on an issue.
And finally, what's the must-have gadget for 2012?
Well don't say I told you, but I've heard Apple is making some investments in jet pack technology. Start saving your pennies.