NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Engadget is a one-stop hub for enthusiastic tech consumers, featuring breaking news updates, product reviews, podcasts, multimedia, and more. Light in tone, just edgy enough to amuse but not offend, and often genuinely informative, it’s tempting to compare the site to a tech version of Gawker—and, in fact, Engadget was founded in 2004 by Peter Rojas, the tech writer who founded Gizmodo for Gawker Media’s Nick Denton in 2002.
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Engadget’s purpose is simple—“to inform and entertain,” says managing editor Darren Murph. In covering an industry where corporate memos and press releases can be dry or riddled with jargon, the main goal is to liven things up. “We saw a need to distill information down in a way that was recognizable and easy to digest,” he says.
Since its founding in 2004, the site has grown to get about four million page views a day, and about 23 million through RSS feeds. It has matured from an initial ten-person operation to having a staff of about forty. Half of the staff is based in New York and half in Silicon Valley, with a few sprinkled around the globe as well.
While the site has footholds in each of the major markets, all of the senior editorial staff is based in Manhattan—an uncommon HQ for a major tech blog. Murph believes that this decision reflects a shift in the ever-transforming tech industry. “Particularly in the last five years, New York has become just as important, if not more important, to technology news than the Valley,” he says. “I’d say seven out of ten launches now take place here. It’s becoming the exception, not the rule, to have an event launched in San Francisco.”
Just one year after its launch, AOL bought Engadget and added it to its Tech group (which today includes TechCrunch, Joystiq, HuffPost Tech, and several others). AOL’s resources have enabled Engadet to steadily grow. For example, in 2009 it launched “The Engadget Show”—a webcast series, including a regular feature in which editor-in-chief Tim Stevens interviews important industry figures in front of a live studio audience.
Teaming up with AOL has also meant that the parent company now handles the sale of ad space. AOL also promotes Engadget content on its homepage, and the other sites in the AOL Tech collective trade links and stories. (But while Engadget has enjoyed the perks that come with its corporate owner, there have also been tensions along the way. In April 2011, eight of the site’s editorial and tech staff, including editor-in-chief Josh Topolsky and managing editor Nilay Patel, left Engadget and AOL to form their own site.)
Engadget’s scope has also expanded to include coverage in foreign languages, including Japanese, Spanish, and German. It has also broadened with the development of three sister sites—one dedicated to mobile devices, one covering HD technology, and a site called Alt, where writers can pursue more science-related stories that don’t fit in with the original site’s gadget beat. “Now we can write about things that were never directly in our wheelhouse or in our periphery,” says Murph.
Engadget fully embraces the twenty-four-hour news cycle. Its editorial team can produce over sixty furiously paced posts in one day of coverage. A typical post might highlight the announcement of a new device or exceptional new feature—like the brightness of the display on the new LG Marquee. Or it might report breaking industry news, like Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility in August. Then there are product reviews, where a product is painstakingly analyzed, scored on a scale of ten, and its pros and cons are summarized in a “wrap up” section.
As the website—and tech culture itself—continue to evolve, one of Murph’s priorities is Engadget’s ability to document that evolution. The site’s long-running podcast series serves a time capsule of sorts, documenting the exponentially fast-moving pace of technology. There are hundreds in the vault, free of charge, hosted usually by Stevens and other contributors to the site. The real gems are episodes that come after the announcement of real game-changers in the industry, says Murph—like the news of Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple in 2011 or the announcement of the original iPhone in 2007. “It’s interesting to see either how speechless we are or how we just can’t stop talking,” says Murph.
This is just another reason Engadget does what it does. While so much of technology is defined by looking forward, once in a while, they like to look back.
City: New York
Principal Staff: Tim Stevens, editor-in-chief; Darren Murph, managing editor; Joshua Fruhlinger, editorial editor; Peter Rojas, founder; Ryan Block, editor emeritus.
Affiliations: Business: AOL, Google search
Content: Inhabitat, Ross Rubin