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CNET Magazine: Humanizing Tech For You, Your Home, Your Ride, And Your Work. The Print Component Of The Techy Brand That Shows And Helps Readers Detox– The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With CNET Co-Editor In Chief, Connie Guglielmo

March 29, 2016

“So, when you look at all of the various platforms that CNET provides its content to; print was actually a platform that we were not invested in. When we looked at the opportunity to do a print magazine, we thought about it and we realized that the magazine publishing world was going through a challenge, but we do believe that people still like to read some content in print.” Connie Guglielmo

“Since I spend all of my days on the computer and my Smartphone and tablets, if you were to come to my house unexpectedly, you would see a library of books. I have physical paper books, hardcover, softcover, large format, small format books. I inherited a library from some relatives and my husband inherited some from his relatives, so we have lots and lots of books. I live not very far from Apple and not very far from where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set up the Apple Garage, and I’m surrounded by books because even though I love my technology and I can’t imagine a world without it, I still like paper.” Connie Guglielmo

CNET 1-3 From a television channel 20 years ago, to the web and all things digital, CNET has been the go-to resource for tech lovers when it comes to news and information about the technological trends and products that are being born and used on a minute-by-minute basis in the world of high-tech. The one area that CNET had no presence in however was print. That was rectified with the launch of their ink on paper product in 2014. Since then, the magazine has set out to prove that tech isn’t just for the tech-iest. Average people who may not invent Hoverboards and savvy computer programs do use technology on a daily basis and are very interested in it.

Connie Guglielmo is the magazine’s co-editor in chief and believes that the print product may reach a mainstream consumer that the website might not attract. Connie is a tech user and lover, but also a firm believer in the fact that some people still like to consume their content through ink on paper.

I spoke with her recently about the attempt to take away any of the fear of technology and reach a wider audience with the print magazine. With the spring issue, the magazine highlighted actress Olivia Munn, who is a tech lover and is building a Smart Home of her own. Connie feels that by utilizing celebrities that are more well-known to the mainstream world, a broader spectrum of readers will recognize and relate to the “easy use of technology” train of thought.

And it seems that even those of us who value their digital devices know when it’s time for a cleansing. An article in the most current issue of the magazine talks about the fact that sometimes people need to disconnect from the device-laden world that we live in and perform a “Daily Detox” by switching their phone to airplane mode, writing down their thoughts and reading a book or a magazine. It’s a very interesting world when you evenly mix print and digital and CNET is proving that fact admirably.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows the value of technology, but also feels the connection of print and believes that the two together are an unstoppable team that will take the CNET brand to new heights.

But first, the sound-bites:

Connie-Guglielmo On why CNET decided they needed a print component after 20 years on the web: CNET is a media company that covers tech and provides our content in a variety of mediums. When we started out it was actually a cable TV channel; then we went onto the web. We were one of the first to do broadcast-quality video online; of course we do photography and we have a staff of photojournalists, which a lot of news organizations no longer have. We have mobile apps, of course, and we engage in social media. So, when you look at all of the various platforms that CNET provides its content to; print was actually a platform that we were not invested in. When we looked at the opportunity to do a print magazine, we thought about it and we realized that the magazine publishing world was going through a challenge, but we do believe that people still like to read some content in print.

On whether she feels the words news and print have become an oxymoron: When I look for news, there are grades of news. Today’s technology has allowed anybody with access to that technology to create a blogpost and share their opinions, or if they don’t want to get fancy they can just Tweet out their opinions or thoughts. Is that news? It depends. If they’re sharing breaking events and they’re the first to report something that’s happening. You can’t discount all of those ways that news is getting out, but as a consumer of news I can be discriminating about what kind of information is important to me. So, as an editor in chief of a news organization, I tell my staff every day; your job is to report the news. We are not columnists, necessarily. We don’t write commentary unless it’s labeled as commentary.

On the scale she uses to judge what news content is for which platform: We approach the storytelling in the quarterly magazine very differently than we do online. Everything that we write for the magazine is original. It’s not something that we’ve taken online and repurposed, then put in the magazine; although, there have been one or two stories that we have done online and then done a variation of for the magazine. But for the most part, 95% plus of the magazine copy is original.

On whether she feels more like a curator as an editor in today’s world than a creator: No, I think we’re definitely creators, but today’s creators are by default curators because you can’t write about everything. So, we’re by definition picking the stories that we think are most important to our readers, that we think are the ones that we want to tell, because like everyone in the world we have limited resources, so there is that aspect of curating.

On the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to face since the magazine started: I don’t know if it’s a stumbling block, we’re still working on it, but a lot of people associate CNET with being an online brand and don’t think about us as having a print magazine. We distribute our magazine through booksellers and airports and Wal-Mart; just a whole list of places where we are, so brand awareness, making sure that people understand that we’re even doing this and then of course, we have to explain constantly why we’re doing this. And when I do explain to people that we didn’t stop everything else that we’ve been doing and set up a magazine, they get it. Then they understand what we’re doing and that we’re not throwing away 20 years’ experience online and investing our total future in print. Again, that’s just a part of what we do.

On Olivia Munn being on the cover of the spring issue: Our purpose in reaching people who use technology and love technology is to talk about the kind being used today or might be using in the near future and how it might resonate with someone’s life. And Olivia Munn is on the cover of our spring issue, which the focus of that issue is the Smart Home, and she has turned her home into a Smart Home. So she told us a little bit about that. She’s also someone who has been around the tech industry for a while, from a tech culture perspective. People know her and she’s a bit of a controversial figure because she was the co-host of a television show called “Attack of the Show” which was on a video game channel. And some people think that that doesn’t mean she’s a video game player, but she actually is.

On whether they got the idea for the Smart Home that CNET actually owns from Olivia Munn: No, we bought the home last year in Louisville, KY., which is not far from our testing lab, where all of the Smart Home gear that we have is tested. And we’d been testing that gear for many years. We raised the stakes in what we do with the Smart Home by buying an actual home. But that predates any of the magazine work. It’s been in the works for years.

On anything else that she’d like to add: One thing I will say about the magazine is that we have so much content online at CNET, we’ve been doing it for 20 years, so when we approached the magazine; we didn’t want it to be a duplication of what we had online. We wanted it to be a complement to what we do.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Since I spend all of my days on the computer and my Smartphone and tablets, if you were to come to my house unexpectedly, you would see a library of books. I have physical paper books, hardcover, softcover, large format, small format books. I inherited a library from some relatives and my husband inherited some from his relatives, so we have lots and lots of books.

On what keeps her up at night: You always want the story that no one thought of and so I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and I have a pen that lights up and I write in a notebook, or I talk and dictate notes into my device; I have story ideas all of the time. That’s my biggest worry and concern, but it’s also the fun and challenge of being an editor and a reporter, chasing the stories that no one has thought to write.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Connie Guglielmo, Editor In Chief, CNET Magazine.

Samir Husni: CNET magazine launched in November, 2014, but it’s been in the digital sphere for 20 years before that. Why did the powers-that-be at CNET decide they needed an ink on paper entity in addition to what the brand had been doing with pixels on a screen?

CNET 2-4 Connie Guglielmo: You’re right; CNET has been covering technology for 20 years. We actually celebrated our 20th anniversary last year. It’s important to understand why we’re doing print and that we’re coming at it from a completely different perspective than most publishers. Many people are in the business of producing a magazine and they have the staff and they build their resources around being able to produce a print publication and they rise and fall on the success of that print magazine.

CNET is a media company that covers tech and provides our content in a variety of mediums. When we started out it was actually a cable TV channel; then we went onto the web. We were one of the first to do broadcast-quality video online; of course we do photography and we have a staff of photojournalists, which a lot of news organizations no longer have. We have mobile apps, of course, and we engage in social media.

So, when you look at all of the various platforms that CNET provides its content to; print was actually a platform that we were not invested in. When we looked at the opportunity to do a print magazine, we thought about it and we realized that the magazine publishing world was going through a challenge, but we do believe that people still like to read some content in print. So, that’s why we produce a quarterly magazine. We’re not monthly or weekly; we’re quarterly. And that creates a cadence in how we produce the content.

We went with a premium quality magazine and we’re also trying to expand our brand and presence to the larger world and so the publication is very consumer-focused. It’s all about tech, but it’s very concerned with the consumer, which unlike some of the other tech magazines out there, they cater to their specific tech niche. You have some magazines that are for the digital audience; you have coders and tinkers; you have gamers; we are completely consumer-focused. So that makes us very different in the marketplace.

It was a combination of all of those things; providing our content to a new platform that we were not in, recognizing that we needed to approach it in the right way; quarterly and very high-quality. And we needed to represent the market audience that we wanted to attract, in terms of our quality and that consumer audience.

I’ll just say one other thing and that is, if in a couple of years refrigerators turn out to be a medium for content…

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Connie Guglielmo: …we’ll produce our content and have it served up so that you can read our stories through your refrigerator. We’re platform agnostic. It’s all about the reader and how they want to consume content. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have pursued all of the different channels and opportunities that we have. So, mobile, obviously, is a big thing for us; it’s very big today and it’s going to be big tomorrow. If you’d asked me 10 years ago if the tech world would want to read news off of the refrigerator; I’m a Star Trek fan, so I would have probably said yes, it makes sense. Now, the general population probably wouldn’t think that, but to us it’s just another channel to reach people.

And our business doesn’t rise and fall on the print product. We didn’t go out and hire a whole new staff and invest in a whole new production system for this magazine. These are CNET resources that we’re just bringing to bear in a different way to produce the magazine.

Samir Husni: As CNET’s news editor in chief, do you feel the words news and print have become an oxymoron?

Connie Guglielmo: (Laughs) I think that’s probably a conversation that every news editor in the United States has had every decade for the past 100 years. How do you define news? Has the definition of news changed over the years? Yes and no.

I started covering technology right out of school and desktop publishing was just coming to the fore and anybody with a MAC computer and PageMaker could produce a newsletter. And what a big deal that was. You didn’t have to have any big print investment; anybody could do it with a couple of fonts, a printer and some stamps and there you go.

Did that change the quality of news? It changed the volume; there’s a lot more content, but I’m of the opinion that information is valuable and adds something to your life. I read a lot of books; I love fiction and non-fiction.

When I look for news, there are grades of news. Today’s technology has allowed anybody with access to that technology to create a blogpost and share their opinions, or if they don’t want to get fancy they can just Tweet out their opinions or thoughts. Is that news? It depends. If they’re sharing breaking events and they’re the first to report something that’s happening. You can’t discount all of those ways that news is getting out, but as a consumer of news I can be discriminating about what kind of information is important to me.

So, as an editor in chief of a news organization, I tell my staff every day; your job is to report the news. We are not columnists, necessarily. We don’t write commentary unless it’s labeled as commentary. Our job is to go out and report the facts, call people, flesh out the information, write it in a way that everyone can understand what’s going on. And that’s different from someone who is just reacting to a news event and sharing their opinion.

If you think there’s value in news and if you think there’s a skill and a craft and art to collecting information and putting it together in a story, then your estimation of news is going to be different than someone else’s. And I was one of those people who cheered when “Spotlight” won the movie of the year at the Oscars. The whole room stood up when one of the producers I believe said, it shows the value of journalism as a craft, that there is a reason to have people who know how to interview and collect information and produce meaningful copy. And I agree with that.

Samir Husni: Your words are music to my ears, because I also teach journalism and I tell people all of the time: all you have to do is watch CNN or Fox for a couple of hours and you begin to wonder what’s going on in journalism these days.

Connie Guglielmo: (Laughs) Again, it depends on what you’re looking for and what you value. As somebody who’s trained as a journalist, I have a graduate degree in journalism; I approach the way that I do my job differently than someone who might just want to write a fun, informational piece based on their point of view.

I’m not saying that that’s not valuable and that people are not interested in that kind of commentary. I love to read op-ed commentary when it’s informed and it’s teaching me something that I don’t know, or something new that I would have not known about. But again, it’s like anything else, where is your line? Where does it cross? There are probably many movies that someone else would watch that I wouldn’t be interested in. Just like there are many stories and books that I would read that other people wouldn’t.

So, having that diversity is important, in terms of news reporting, but I do think the most important thing to remember is, just because you can write something doesn’t make you a news reporter or a journalist. Hitting that high bar in that service to the reader is vital.

Samir Husni: And how do you take those standards and apply them to the minute-by-minute news coverage, such as on CNET News, and in a quarterly magazine? How do you balance or juggle between the moment-by-moment and the quarter-by-quarter? What’s the scale you use to judge which content is for which platform?

cnet spred-2 Connie Guglielmo: We approach the storytelling in the quarterly magazine very differently than we do online. Everything that we write for the magazine is original. It’s not something that we’ve taken online and repurposed, then put in the magazine; although, there have been one or two stories that we have done online and then done a variation of for the magazine. But for the most part, 95% plus of the magazine copy is original.

When you’re writing for that cadence, you’re approaching storytelling in a very different way than you are when you’re reacting to daily news. And I’ve worked at magazines in the past before I joined CNET; I worked at Forbes for two years and before that I worked at Bloomberg, which is a wire service; talk about minute-by-minute, and I worked there for almost seven years, so you do balance how you tell the story, but I don’t think that’s any different than any journalist would do. If you’re writing a book of poetry, you write your poems following a certain format. But if you’re writing Haiku, that’s a very short format.

So, when you look at the kind of content that we produce on a daily basis, a lot of it is reaction to news or getting ahead of the news or commenting on news, but we also do long-form and feature online.

For the magazine, we have to tell stories in one, two, or three pages, because you’re constrained by print, so we started to experiment with the very first issue on storytelling and if you’ve seen the first issue of CNET magazine, if you go into the magazine to two stories, one is called “Confessions of a Smartphone Thief,” and we worked with the San Francisco District Attorney for months to interview this thief who had stolen iPhones to hear his side of the story about why he did it and what happened to the iPhones after he took them and etc.

The story in the magazine is two pages and about 1,100 words. But the original story that he reported is 2,500 words, so if you look at the story in print, it gives you a link to the longer version of the story. So, we’re not bound by the limitations of the magazine, in terms of telling the story in so many words, because the longer version is online and we posted the 1,100 word version in the magazine. And that gives readers a choice. If they think the story is interesting, they can go and read the longer version of it. Some people never see the magazine, so they see the story online.

Then there was our interview with the cover candidate and for that first issue it was LL Cool J. We did a story about people being captured by their devices and we did a Q & A with him and we posted a video of him talking about what he’d told us in the interview. So, if you go to the print magazine you’ll find the link that takes you to the video.

With every magazine we’re trying to connect the online and print well to our advantage. If we can tell a story in a certain way online and then do it differently and have connections to the print, and vice versa, that’s great.

When we look at the magazine and plan out an issue, we do think about the space; the timing, something has to stand up if it’s been written two months before we go to print. So, it’s different, the feature approach. Again, because we have the tie-back to the online world, we can estimate and also do sidebars; we can do video; we can do infographics. We can enrich that content in any way we want. So, in that case, we’re not bound by the limitations of print. All we have to do is include a link in the magazine that takes you back to a page and then we can access that page at will whenever we want.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that now you’re more of a curator than a creator when it comes to content?

Connie Guglielmo: No, I think we’re definitely creators, but today’s creators are by default curators because you can’t write about everything. So, we’re by definition picking the stories that we think are most important to our readers, that we think are the ones that we want to tell, because like everyone in the world we have limited resources, so there is that aspect of curating.

But also the content that we produce is original, and occasionally we will link out to other people’s excellent journalism just to provide a service to our reader or we’ll link back to stories that we think adds a depth of content that helps our reporting, but we’re out there originally reporting every single day.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face since the magazine started and how did you overcome it?

Connie Guglielmo: I don’t know if it’s a stumbling block, we’re still working on it, but a lot of people associate CNET with being an online brand and don’t think about us as having a print magazine. We distribute our magazine through booksellers and airports and Wal-Mart; just a whole list of places where we are, so brand awareness, making sure that people understand that we’re even doing this and then of course, we have to explain constantly why we’re doing this. And when I do explain to people that we didn’t stop everything else that we’ve been doing and set up a magazine, they get it. Then they understand what we’re doing and that we’re not throwing away 20 years’ experience online and investing our total future in print. Again, that’s just a part of what we do.

So, telling that story and making sure that people understand that what we’re doing makes sense and then just raising awareness, which is why we’ve taken the tack that we have with our cover candidate, which you’ll see, they’re not your traditional tech industry people. They’re more mainstream celebrities that people know and identify with. And the point in doing that was so that we could show that these people use tech; it’s not the scary topic that I should be afraid of. So, we wanted to have a wider appeal and that’s why we went with celebrities on the cover. It’s telling the story and making sure that people understand the story. And that continues to be our top priority.

Samir Husni: You keep emphasizing, and rightfully so, that you’re putting the audience first, that you’re more of a consumer magazine, rather than a techy magazine. Tell me about Olivia Munn on the cover of your spring issue.

Connie Guglielmo: Again, our purpose in reaching people who use technology and love technology is to talk about the kind being used today or might be using in the near future and how it might resonate with someone’s life. And Olivia Munn is on the cover of our spring issue, which the focus of that issue is the Smart Home, and she has turned her home into a Smart Home. So she told us a little bit about that.

She’s also someone who has been around the tech industry for a while, from a tech culture perspective. People know her and she’s a bit of a controversial figure because she was the co-host of a television show called “Attack of the Show” which was on a video game channel. And some people think that that doesn’t mean she’s a video game player, but she actually is. She was raised with video games and she likes to play with technology. She talked to us about why she doesn’t like Apple products and prefers Microsoft and she talked about the tech that she would like to see in the future. And a spoiler is that she’s very disappointed that we don’t have Hoverboards like in the movie “Back to the Future,” ones that you could actually hover on, which she would love to do above Los Angeles traffic.

So, our goal in using her as our cover candidate was because she is connected to the world of tech in a way that most average people are connected. They use technology and add it to their home, they have Smart-tech in their cars and they use tech services; they have a point of view about entertainment. So, even though she is a celebrity, she’s more aligned with how the average person might use tech than say, Mark Zuckerberg.

Samir Husni: Did you get the idea for the CNET tech home that you built, the Smart Home in Louisville, Kentucky; did you get the idea from Olivia Munn?

Connie Guglielmo: No, we bought the home last year in Louisville, KY., which is not far from our testing lab, where all of the Smart Home gear that we have is tested. And we’d been testing that gear for many years. We raised the stakes in what we do with the Smart Home by buying an actual home. But that predates any of the magazine work. It’s been in the works for years.

And the gamble was in actually buying the house so that we could make it a living lab, not just say that this is how it’s supposed to work with the house, because we have been doing that. We have these rooms set up with filtration systems, temperature controls, test refrigerators and thermostats, but we wanted to use them in a real world environment, because that’s how you test all products.

That was why we made the investment in the Smart Home and I would say that the reaction from some of the people that we’ve talked to is they like to live in a Smart Home. Sofia Vergara was on our cover last spring for the Smart Home issue and she’s also building a Smart Home for herself in Los Angeles. She talked at length about the kinds of entertainment systems that she wanted incorporated in her home and the security system.

So, all of this predates Olivia Munn. Although, Olivia had a lot of fun ideas, but I’m sorry, I can’t give her credit for this one. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Well, what got my attention was the robotic lawn mower. (Laughs)

Connie Guglielmo: (Laughs too) Well, we’re testing all kinds of technology here. And like I said, 10 or 20 years ago, would anyone have thought of a Smart thermostat or a Smart lock? But if you believed in the vision of the future and that everything was going to be connected, you might. We saw it coming and we saw that it was going to be real and not just a Sci-Fi futuristic kind of thing, which is why we started testing years ago and made the investment in an actual house. The idea was to have a real world place to test products so that everyone could see what was right and what was wrong.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Connie Guglielmo: One thing I will say about the magazine is that we have so much content online at CNET, we’ve been doing it for 20 years, so when we approached the magazine; we didn’t want it to be a duplication of what we had online. We wanted it to be a complement to what we do.

So, we thought about that in the ways that I shared with you; about how we could tie online and print and extend our coverage, but even in our Buying Guide, which is a big part of every issue, rather than just saying here are the Top 10 Smartphones or tablets, we have the Guide online too, but we broke it down by price for the Buying Guide in print, because a lot of people look at technology by price. And we did it in a way that we thought would be helpful to our readers. So, if they want to look at it online, they could. We didn’t have to reproduce it all in the magazine; we just let it complement what we have online. It’s not a duplicate. And that’s what we did throughout the magazine and I’m very proud that we did that.

And also in how we organized the magazine, a lot of people have features about technology for technology’s sake, and I’m not saying that’s not valid, but our approach was about people and how they use tech, so we have the magazine divided into four main sections: you; your house; your car; your work, because those are the four main areas that technology is going to touch you in your life. And every story we write slots into one of those categories by default because that’s how you use tech in your life.

We’re trying to put the “you,” the personal back into technology, because there are a lot of stories written about technology and I’ve been writing about them for more than 20 years myself. But the thing that we have to remember is technology is no longer this niche thing that only a few people touch; it is a part of everything that we do, every single day. And it’s important to remember that the technology is one thing, but it’s really how you use it that is the most important thing. Is it meaningful to you as a person? Can you integrate into your life? We wanted to remind people that “you” are the center of tech, not tech at the center.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home one evening unexpectedly, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching television; or something else?

Connie Guglielmo: Since I spend all of my days on the computer and my Smartphone and tablets, if you were to come to my house unexpectedly, you would see a library of books. I have physical paper books, hardcover, softcover, large format, small format books. I inherited a library from some relatives and my husband inherited some from his relatives, so we have lots and lots of books. I live not very far from Apple and not very far from where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set up the Apple Garage, and I’m surrounded by books because even though I love my technology and I can’t imagine a world without it, I still like paper.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Connie Guglielmo: These days I sleep pretty well. Generally speaking, I’m always looking to make sure that our team is working on the next interesting story and not the same stories that everyone else is chasing. I like us to do original reporting that is slightly different from the conventional wisdom, that’s how you stay ahead as a journalist.

You always want the story that no one thought of and so I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and I have a pen that lights up and I write in a notebook, or I talk and dictate notes into my device; I have story ideas all of the time. That’s my biggest worry and concern, but it’s also the fun and challenge of being an editor and a reporter, chasing the stories that no one has thought to write.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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