Interview: Gary Rivlin

Although Gary Rivlin has only been with The New York Times, in its Silicon Valley bureau, for ten months, he's not a new kid on the block.

Although Gary Rivlin has only been with The New York Times, in its Silicon Valley bureau, for ten months, he's not a new kid on the block.

Rivlin was a senior writer for The Industry Standard, which not only chronicled the tech boom and bust, but also lived it, going from issues that were a few hundred pages to going out of business. After a brief hiatus to write for publications on the East Coast, including GQ and The New York Times, Rivlin is back in the Bay Area, and reporting on a very different business and media landscape. PRWeek: What's your take on the tech media landscape right now? Gary Rivlin: It's more and less at the same time. My old title is out of business. There are fewer reporters writing about [technology] from a traditional publishing perspective. But at the same time, with bloggers and the internet, there's more coverage than ever of the tech industry. PRWeek: What has changed the most about the way the media covers technology? Rivlin: Clearly, the lesson was learned that it's not enough to get excited about interesting-sounding technology. So I think a healthy dose of skepticism still remains. The bubble bursting is so recent that the same reporters are still writing about this industry. As for blogs, they haven't changed what I do [as a reporter] one iota. What they have done is increase the avenues for learning and keeping apprised of what is going on. PRWeek: How has the tone of companies' messaging changed? Rivlin: Companies are anticipating our questions about revenue and how do they turn their tech ideas into a business. For a while, my phone would ring at The Industry Standard with pitches, and they didn't get the basics about business. But there was a winnowing down of the PR world, and now I'm hearing from a higher-quality person. PRWeek: What do you think distinguishes The New York Times' coverage from the competition? Rivlin: I think the bar has been set higher. We have a limited news hole. So we make sure to cover the big important bellwether companies and also weigh in on the big trends. What does your average New York Times reader care about? There's a real bias toward consumer companies. People use Yahoo and Google, but don't use bigger companies that help businesses as much. PRWeek: So what are you writing about now? Rivlin: I'm writing about tech companies as business stories. I'm writing about companies like Oracle, Siebel [Systems], eBay, and Amazon. But I like to write stories about Silicon Valley as a place. I want to know who the major players are, and what are the big battles and trends. PRWeek: What do you consider an interesting story? Rivlin: First off, there are the interesting scoops. Having the exclusive will win me over. I'm interested in a compelling story line, an interesting tension, in the sense of a novel or short story. I'm interested in big personalities, someone who is a compelling character and has a certain bravado. I tend not to write about unproven start-ups, unless they get so much venture capital that you can't help but pay attention. Most of the carpetbaggers seem to have left. The true believers are still here because they care about technology and aren't here simply to get rich. Name: Gary Rivlin Outlet: The New York Times Title: Technology reporter Preferred contact method: Website:

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