South by Southwest [in 2009] it was the main news platform of SXSW and I felt as if the primary sort of information stream of where I was, was going off without me being able to see into it. So I lurked for a while and then started tweeting and – I do think it’s very helpful in terms of having a human RSS – 600 people I follow, at least half of them I have intersecting professional interests, and I do think it puts me on tempo, in narrative, in a really important way. That explains why I’m on Twitter. The fact that I’ve tweeted or retweeted 20,000 times – that’s a source of shame to me. I mean, what did I tweet last night?
Something about the Minnesota state fair.
Oh yea, Melena Ryzik, my colleague, had found some seed art. And I don’t know, I think seed art is something people should know about. And I was listening to Gang of Four. Like – blah blah blah. Ha ha ha! I was writing, so it’s a way to, like, get away from that. I think the person who actually originally talked me into tweeting was Kurt Andersen, and he said: It’s like, you’re working on something and you need a break, and wanna’ have a cigarette and you do a tweet instead. And given that I have been and for the most part am an avid smoker, I got the metaphor very well.
I try to be equitable and I think at least half of my tweets carry at least some meta data, some kind of link to a story or a picture, something like that, and I think there’s gotta be nutrition involved beyond what you’re eating, and I try to be equitable – if [Dow Jones reporter] Peter Kafka does something that I think is amazing, or the Guardian breaks news, or whatever – you can’t just go on and relentlessly promote the whole music of self. If you look at Martha Stewart’s Twitter, she’s got a lot of followers but all she does it talk about how great she is. I don’t think that works.
I think it’s really important in terms of persona that you tweet the good and the bad. It’s okay to tweet that you just had a cigarette with Kate Winslet – because that’s a moment, that’s great, that’s cool. But yeah, you should also tweet that you took a bus home to New Jersey after doing that, and you went through a bridge and tunnel, so that people don’t get the impression that you think you’re All That.
I don’t want to be seen as some gossamer creature of Manhattan media life – because I’m not. I’m really worried about my lawn, there’s a big weed problem right now. And iTunes is baffling me – that’s a big part of my life. And I think, to the extent that people follow you and are interested in you, they want a well-rounded portrait. But it is driven at bottom by narcissism and egoism, and my wife thinks it’s completely appalling.
So let’s put Twitter aside for a second. You are, as I mentioned, a bit of a rock star. The CJF thing sold out within minutes. In our world, you’re like U2.
It’s sort of a tallest leprechaun thing.
Okay, but you’re well known and followed closely. It seems to me to say something about what’s going on in the world, and it’s not just uncertainty.
Tell me a little bit about what you’re thinking.
It seems that, amid all the noise and the high-velocity change – and it’s not just being a media reporter, but someone who works in the business – some days it seems that all you can do is hold on for the ride, for dear life. And once a week we get to check in with you – and if not be told everything’s going to be okay, at least there’s a very intelligent person figuring it out for all of us.
Oh, I’m completely flattered by that, I like that a lot. Well – a couple of things are going on. The column-left space on the Business pages of the NYT hosts Andrew Ross Sorkin and Gretchen Morgensen, and used to host Joe Nocera.
So there’s a conferring of authority that occurs in that space, and I benefit from that, so that’s one. Two is, I made a very conscious decision that – Am I an old media grampy pants or a new media avatar? And the answer is: I’m both. Three is, a story that you and I covered for many, many years up until 2005 – ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling’ – nothing fundamentally changed. The sort of pie chart that drove the ad business remained the same. And the, right when I started doing the column, everything changed.