By Kelly Hall
If you’re in tech, chances are you’ve read an article by Jon Swartz.
A high-tech investigative journalist since 1987, Jon has covered everything from Silicon Valley trends, and public and emerging companies to profiles on almost every big name in tech. You might even say technology is in his DNA (Jon’s father was an engineer for IBM before founding several Silicon Valley startups).
Before joining Dow Jones’ MarketWatch in his current role as Senior Reporter, Jon reported for publications like USA Today, Forbes, The Independent, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. In his 30+ years in the business, Jon has won numerous journalism awards, been named a two-time finalist for the Loebs—the Pulitzers of business reporting—and has been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize.
Accolades and expertise aside, to know Jon, which I have for 15 years, is to love Jon. He is funny, kind, inquisitive, and loyal. He’s also an incredible father, friend, husband, and an all around wonderful human.
I recently sat down with Jon to learn more about the current technology and media landscape, the must-haves for a good story, advice for pre-IPO CEOs, and more.
Of all the stories you’ve written, which are your favorites and why?
I suppose the three stories on John McAfee in the mid-2010s come to mind. We traveled together in Oregon, Tennessee and Alabama. We tried to make it escapist non-fiction with a guy who literally made up much of what he said for decades. I also enjoyed doing a feature-like piece on AWS and its origins a couple years ago as well as an inside-”A Bug’s Life” piece around Steve Jobs and Pixar in the late ‘90s. [Then again, I barely remember what I wrote yesterday.]
You’ve been a tech journalist for 30 years? How have you seen both the tech and the media landscape change over that time? And where do you see it heading in the next several years?
The industries, both in tech and media, have changed inexorably since I started. Newspapers are all but a thing of the past in terms of influence and resources, sadly. Conversely, the tech world — yes. Google and Meta have supplanted the traditional media as news hubs and advertising meccas. Deadlines at papers are shortening to cut costs, but there is a bright side: Digital sites that specialize in covering various aspects of tech have never been better, and the younger journalists are as smart (maybe even smarter?) than the old guard.
What are the must-have ingredients for a solid story?
Conflict, some tension, compelling figures and societal impact. Those stories aren’t plentiful and take time to track down and gain sources’ trust. They aren’t easy, but truly worthwhile.
You’ve covered a lot of IPOs over the years. What are three questions every CEO should be prepared to address in an interview ahead of their IPO? With the recent economic downturn, many companies are putting IPOs on hold. Are you interested in early introductory interviews with CEOs on the road to IPO?
Well, we want to know about the path/storyline to profitability and sustained revenue. Also, is there a succession plan if/when the company gets to a certain threshold in revenue. It happens everywhere, or at least it used to, like it did with Apple and Google, among others.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I am an introvert. LOL.