Walt Mossberg is a very influential figure in the technology industry. In August 2004, David Brown, anchor of Marketplace stated, “Mossberg is both feared and respected by makers of computers and other digital gadgetry.” His rock-star status in the tech industry has prompted companies to want to get in front of him and win his stamp of approval on their products. So what makes him so influential? More importantly how can organizations win a coveted briefing with Mossberg and ensure they get a thumbs up?
Since 1970, Mossberg has been a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal. His Personal Technology column has appeared in the publication every Thursday since 1991. Mossberg also writes the Mossberg’s Mailbox column, is a regular technology commentator for the CNBC network and contributor to Dow Jones Video on the Web, and co-produces and co-hosts D: All Things Digital, a major high-tech and media conference.
Mossberg describes his columns as “railing against” the concept of “techism” which is a term he uses to describe the types of products designed by “techies” that only other techies can figure out. He believes that technology should be more accessible to the everyday consumer who doesn’t have a technology background and says gadgets should be easy to use. He knows what consumers will like and dislike and according to Brad Chase, a former Microsoft chieftain, his reviews are usually “spot-on.”
Mossberg admits he is a very honest reviewer and is not afraid to speak his mind. In 2004, XM Satellite felt the backlash of Mossberg’s mediocre review of the XM Satellite Radio. On the morning his column appeared XM’s stock fell 8.5 percent. It’s no wonder Hugh Panero, who was the CEO of XM Satellite at the time, blamed Mossberg for the company’s falling stock price and decrease in consumer interest.
While working with Mossberg may seem intimidating, the trick is knowing how and when to approach him. Consider the following:
Read what Mossberg is writing about – regularly. This will give you incredible insight into what’s of most interest to him and what technologies/products he’s skeptical about. Doing your homework will also be useful when you do score that coveted briefing with Mossberg as you’ll be better prepared to address the tough questions.
Know that Mossberg typically doesn’t consider briefings or reviews of products until there is a groundswell of adoption from the general public. So if you are a start-up company with a small (but growing) user base, you may want to consider holding off reaching out to Mossberg until you have some solid numbers and data that validate your technology.
Consider offering Mossberg an exclusive opportunity to review your product. While this won’t ensure he will give your product a favorable review, it could pique his interest and get your foot in the door.
In his ethics statement, Mossberg notes, “I don’t review most of these products, and, when I do, I don’t always review them favorably.” Be prepared for the worst. If Mossberg does write a negative review, look for ways to improve your product – don’t try to argue with his judgment as this will inevitably ruin your relationship with him and ensure that you may never receive a positive review in the future.
Come prepared. Mossberg, like any good journalist is not afraid to ask the tough questions and can often make sharp comments. If you’ve done your homework and know what his hot buttons are you will be in a better position to respond appropriately and clearly illustrate your perspectives.
Mossberg thoroughly tests products from a user perspective for all of his reviews. While some reviews aren’t always favorable, you can be sure that his assessments are usually fair and should be taken seriously as it can have a significant impact on your business as illustrated above. On the flip side, a good review from Mossberg can significantly influence consumer interest and trust in a product. Below you will find few examples of the positive reviews Mossberg has given recently:
Wall Street Journal, “Netbooks Come Into Their Own,” November 5, 2008
Wall Street Journal, “BlackBerry’s Storm Presses Into the Touch-Phone Fray,” November 19, 2008
ZDNet, “Walt Mossberg Picks Hot Holiday Gadgets,” November 26, 2008Tags: Brad Chase, CNBC, D: All Things Digital, David Brown, Dow Jones Video on the Web, Ethics Statement, Gadgets, Hugh Panero, Marketplace, Microsoft, Mossberg's Mailbox, Personal Technology, Techism, Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg, XM Satellite Radio, ZDNet