Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Heading into the workshop

Two years ago, when I explained to my children why I left one of the best jobs in journalism—covering technology for the New York Times—I told them that I wanted to be an inventor. Since then I’ve had the thrilling experience of being part of AOL, which is doing more than nearly anyone else to rethink the way that news is gathered, presented and paid for.

Now it’s time to strike out on my own and seek my fortune as an inventor.  I’ve left AOL, and Monday I started as an entrepreneur in residence at Betaworks. If you’re not familiar with it, Betaworks has started and invested in a number of companies that are on the vanguard of real-time social experiences—several of which relate to news and publishing—including Bit.ly, ChartBeat, TweetDeck, and News.Me. It’s run by John Borthwick, who I first met in 1997 when he sold his startup, Total New York, to America Online. We’ve become friends, and I couldn’t think of a more fertile environment in which to germinate a new idea than the bustle of creativity bursting out of the Betaworks loft in the meat packing district.

I know my friends in the technology press well enough to suspect some of them will see my move as part of a broader trend at AOL. I’m not sure the easy take is the right one. Based on my experience, I am more bullish on Tim Armstrong’s clear vision of a company built from the ground up for online journalism and the potential of AOL’s many assets to achieve that vision. 

I will always be grateful to Tim for giving me the chance to prove that I had more to contribute to a journalistic organization than simply articles and to Arianna Huffington for inviting me to join the HuffPost team.   And I’m in debt to so many who offered so much advice—some of which I ignored to my own detriment—on the nuances of technology, product design, PowerPoint, and the ways of big companies. What is now the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, is clearly emerging as a powerful and innovative source of news and information.  Yet this success entails a continuous refinement of the AOL organization, and one of the inevitable reorganizations provided a logical time for me to try my hand at starting a company.

It’s too soon to say much about what I’m doing. But I think there is a lot left to invent around both how to present news to people that takes advantage of the technology available today.

I expect you’ll see a lot more soon.