viernes, mayo 11, 2007

El influyente Mossberg

Walter Mossberg es uno de los columnitas más influyente en EE.UU. actualmente. Quizás más que Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman o William Safire. Su página en el Wall Street Journal puede hacer tambalear a empresas como Microsoft, Apple o Intel. Tal como Greenspan hacía tambalear las acciones más transadas en en Wall Street, Mossberg moviliza (al alza o la baja) los títulos de las empresas tecnológicas. Los nuevos medios han creado nuevos tipos de productos y nuevo tipo de periodistas. Y, por supuesto, nuevo tipo de columnistas. Más técnicos, sin duda; más al servicio del lector que de sus propios puntos de vista. Columnistas que reportean, que se informan, que conocen las necesidades de los lectores y que, por supuesto, saben cómo satisfacerlas. Los medios deben tener el coraje de tener un columnista como Mossberg, que frente a la disyuntiva de dañar los ingresos por publicidad de su medio o democratizar la información, siempre optará por esta segunda opción.

Por Ken Auletta
On a blustery, overcast day early this year, P.R. representatives from Sprint and Samsung stopped by the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal to meet with the columnist Walter S. Mossberg. The agenda was clear: Sprint had a new music phone designed by Samsung, and the group was hoping for a positive reception from a man who has become to technology what Brooks Atkinson once was to the New York theatre—someone whose judgment can ratify years of effort or sink the show. Mossberg’s “Personal Technology” column, which anchors the front of the Journal’s Thursday Marketplace section, is particularly powerful when it comes to judging innovation intended for the consumer market. The opening sentence of his inaugural column, sixteen years ago, was “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault,” a sentence that Mossberg has since described as his “mission statement.”

Mossberg’s influence was felt almost at once. In 1992, he began championing the Internet service provider America Online for its simplicity, calling it far superior to its competitors, CompuServe and Prodigy; his persistent criticism of Prodigy probably hastened its demise. (Steve Case, AOL’s former chairman and C.E.O., says that Mossberg’s column “helped move us from the status of just another wannabe to a potential contender.”) In 1996, after Mossberg called the handheld Palm Pilot a “breakthrough product”—a comment that Donna Dubinsky, the company’s former C.E.O., calls “a huge thing”—its sales surged. In February, Mossberg praised the site for the quality of its Web-based TV shows; according to Dina Kaplan, the company’s co-founder, the Web site had a thirty-five-per-cent jump in viewers in the first twenty-four hours after the column appeared.

Reviews of digital products and advances have become commonplace. The magazine PC, among others, has reviewed products since the eighties, and Wired covers technology with the avidity that the Washington Post brings to politics. David Pogue has been the Times’ technology critic since 2000; Newsweek, Business Week, and Fortune all have regular technology critics. But the digital world inevitably democratizes information. A Web site, for instance, may be devoted to a single product. On January 9th, when, at the annual MacWorld conference, Steve Jobs, the C.E.O. of Apple, offered the first glimpse of Apple’s forthcoming iPhone, a combination cell phone and music player, the blog had more traffic than the Times’ Web site.

Few tech columnists, though, write as clearly about the subject as Mossberg. Nor is it likely that any print journalist in America is so richly compensated by his newspaper. Some journalists, such as Thomas L. Friedman, of the Times, earn more if one factors in speeches and books, but when, recently, Mossberg signed a four-year contract, two Journal sources told me, his annual compensation approached a million dollars. Mossberg refuses to discuss his pay; a friend with knowledge of the negotiations says that “pay has always been an issue at the Journal,” and that Mossberg doesn’t want to be viewed as a “prima donna.”

A week after Eric Schmidt became the C.E.O. of Google, six years ago, he went to see Mossberg. “He had just written an article about Google,” Schmidt says. “I wanted to get his insights. He was very gracious in saying, ‘This is what works. This is what doesn’t.’ He’s seen everything.” Schmidt says of him, as one might of a wine writer, “He has a good nose.”


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