Writing about “cool stuff” like internet culture and new technologies is Karl Hodge’s passion. Find out more about his work for PC Plus, Macworld and .net in today’s freelance journalist interview…
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
My beat is broad. I started my career writing about web design and digital creativity. I still produce a lot of reviews, news and tutorials in that area. I also edit a couple of consumer advice columns, where I deal with customer complaints about technology and services.
At heart, I’m an academic though. I’m happiest when speculating about internet culture and the sociological impact of new technologies. The culture of hacking and online crowds, virtual identity and social media. The cool stuff. It’s nice work, when I can get it.
Where are we likely to see your work?
All over the web and in the computer section of WH Smith. In print I’m most often found in PC Plus, .net and Macworld. I’m a great champion of independent journalism and blog on Google Plus too.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I wrote a very short piece about viral marketing for the Guardian ten years ago. It was unloved at the time, tucked into the back of the Online supplement – but I still get emails about it now. I still read books and academic journal articles that refer back to it. It was quite probably the first mainstream piece about online memes published in the UK.
The early days of .net magazine were fun too. In the late 90s and early 00s it was aimed at early adopters rather than designers. I wrote lifestyle features about online identity, cyber warfare and virtual worlds in the publication’s jaunty style. It gave me a platform to explore my academic interests in an accessible style – and it remains the most satisfying period of my career.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
Not so much a specific feature – but a style of content. In my dreams, I’d get to bring gonzo sensibilities to technology journalism. Hanging out in Silicon Valley, following the speculators and glorious fools, writing up pieces heavy with neurotic analysis and speculative whimsy. Just need to win the lottery first.
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
My ideas are driven by what’s buzzing in social media, what new practices are being adopted online and in web design and how people are using the net. The mainstream news is a huge source for my opinion work too. For example, I wrote news pieces for PC Plus on the use of Twitter and Facebook after the recent UK riots.
I also review software and hardware and I’m always looking for outstanding apps and devices with creative possibilities.
How can PRs be useful to you?
PR is best for me when it’s reactive – when it helps me to make connections. Mostly, I like to find my own stories, then establish contact with primary sources to get real quotes.
Getting good images for print is essential too. It’s also helpful to get equipment loans and software sent for review in a timely way.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I wish there were more trips! In these recessionary times, there seem to be fewer and fewer such opportunities.
An issue for many freelancers and digital workers is that although we make a large contribution to content production, there are quite a few of us that don’t live in London. Inevitably, that’s where the parties and events often are.
The media is changing. It’s no longer centred around publishing houses and their editors. Individual content producers – whether bloggers or stringers – can have a far-reaching influence in this new economy. PR companies may be surprised to find out how well attended events in Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham might be – and how much return they might get from them…
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I already work as a university lecturer teaching digital journalism. So that’s what I’d do. And I’d write more books.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d give it to Amnesty International.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m reading Sherry Turkle’s book about post-human interaction, ‘Alone Together’ and too many blogs to list. Google Plus has almost replaced my old RSS feed reader. As for mags? Mojo and SFX are often in my bag – two publications I love and would love to write for.