Today, I spoke to Chris Cameron, who is a technology journalist writing for ReadWriteWeb, one of the top 20 blogs and top 5 technology blogs in the world. In this interview, I ask Chris about how technology has changed his life, what his company has done for his career, who the most fascinating entrepreneur he’s written about, ask him to explain how augmented reality impacts personal branding, and about his online brand presence.
How has technology changed your life on a personal and professional level?
Professionally, technology is one of the only reasons why I am working in the field I am. Growing up I had a lot of interests, and went through the whole spectrum of possible careers I wanted to go into when I “grew up” as kids say. I played sports, I took interest in various subjects, but one thing I liked – or tried very hard to like – all throughout that time was journaling. I would get all these different journals and tell myself I was going to start keeping a diary or a journal, but it would fade into obscurity. The reason I now attribute to this is not a disinterest with writing, but a disinterest with pen and paper. When I was 9, my family got its first computer, but it didn’t click that it would be the saving grace of my love for writing until much later. A new point in my life had begun at that point by way of some drum lessons.
Throughout middle school, high school and into college, music was my life. I was in marching bands, concert bands, jazz bands, percussion ensembles, steel drum bands, drum and bugle corps, community ensembles, and even in college ensembles as I began my undergrad as a music major. But as I started thinking about what I rally wanted to be doing professionally, music didn’t seem quite like the right fit. Coincidentally, despite missing the Live Journal fad during high school, I started blogging in 2004 when I started college. And blogging, I think, was the technology that brought me back to my earlier childhood love of writing. And the rest is history. I finished out my undergrad, went onto into journalism for grad school, and now I’ve got a great gig doing what I love.
Personally, technology has done wonders for me in terms of communicating amongst friends. Obviously enough, Facebook and Twitter and even email have changed how friends stay in touch. In the 80s and 90s kids wanted their own phone line to chat with friends, in the dial-up era kids wanted their own phone line to sign on to America Online using a 56k modem. Now all they need is a cell phone to text on or a web account to chat with. In my high school days, everyone signed on to AIM when they got home and that was how they stayed in touch. Back in middle school I “chatted” with friends using email and forum thread-like online chat sites. More recently, technology has not only become a passion of mine, but its helped me find the most rewarding relationship of my life. I met my girlfriend – now of over a year, and who I now live with – on the Internet by way of an internet dating site. I also have some good friends of mine who are now engaged who met using a similar site. Technology is changing lives, and its amazing how far its come in such a short time.
Well it’s certainly not a bad start! Even as I entered graduate school I still wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with a masters degree in journalism, but I assumed it would reveal itself to me. During the summer between my last two semester, I sent an email to Richard MacManus and Marshall Kirkpatrick asking whether they offered any sort of internship at ReadWriteWeb, a blog I had read and respected for a while. They’re response was that, they didn’t formally have an internship program, but they had been meaning to start one, and so they accepted me. It was mainly doing research for reports and in-depth pieces, but it was enough to catch their attention, and to build a relationship so that when I graduated they offered me a writing position.
It has certainly been thrilling to go from a few hundred visits to my personal blog each month to writing a few posts a day that have the potential to be infront of thousands of pairs of eyeballs. Working there has not only made me a better writer in terms of content and composition, but also ethically as well. Now brands are emailing me personally asking for coverage, and being able to balance all of that with what I’ve learned in graduate school is a little like diving in head-first after just being taught to swim. In the end, ReadWriteWeb is a well respected site, and upholding that reputation is a big responsibility, and a challenge, but it has certainly been worth it.
Who is the most fascinating entrepreneur you’ve written about? What about startup company?
It’s hard to come up with an answer after just writing for a few months, but I have certainly made mention of a few interesting entrepreneurs. A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Crush It!” which is all about personal branding but also tells his personal story of immigrating to the U.S., growing up in New York and New Jersey, and building an online business at the dawn of the Internet. I listened to the audio version of the book, read by Gary himself, and he brings so much passion to everything he does its hard not to find yourself motivated after reading or listening to him.
As far as companies go, last week I wrote about Jack Dorsey’s new startup Square, which is making a credit card scanner dongle that will plug into iPhones and iPod Touches for easy on-the-go credit transactions. The company is interesting because they are attempting to do what no one has been successful at, and in a field where there is so much concern over privacy and fraud. Their product, I think, is amazing and I know I will want one, but readers have been split over it. Their success or failure will be fascinating to watch this summer when they launch.
Augmented reality (AR) is already impacting brands. Soon ReadWriteWeb will be releasing a premium report on AR marketing which I have written during my first two months at the blog. By working on that report it has become clear that AR is already making a huge impact on the way brands are marketing themselves, but it has yet to take off and become a household name. Movie studios are promoting movies like Transformers and Avatar using AR campaigns, auto makers like Toyota and BMW are letting people play with virtual 3D models of their new cars using AR, and AR browsers like Layar, Wikitude and acrossair are providing hyper-local brand advertisements right on our smart-phones.
The possibilities for AR are virtually endless, even the Olympics have some AR stuff going on. I think that in a few years, any well known company will have AR as a major part of their marketing repertoire. Personal brands will also benefit from AR because of the platforms that are being developed to more easily build AR applications. Layar, the mobile browser, just announced that it will allow geo-tagged AR content developers to start charging for their “layers” available for download on the app. So basically, they are creating the App Store of AR geo-data. And AR developers like metaio and Total Immersion are creating SDKs that will allow programmers to create AR experiences quickly and efficiently. So as AR becomes less of an experimental geek technology, it gets easier to create, and easier for personal brands to take advantage of it.
What does your blog, chcameron.com, say about you?
Heh, right now that’s a good question, as I have just moved my blog over to Squarespace. After reading “Crush It!” by Gary Vaynerchuk I was inspired to better brand myself now that I’m a professional writer, and moving my blog over to Squarespace was part of that because it allows more freedom than my previous blog host (WordPress). So right now, theres only a few posts, but I hope to build that site into a better portal to my personal brand, which I hope will grow over time.
Eventually I hope what it will say about me is that I have very eclectic interests. Already I’ve written about three very different things: journalism, sports and music. But for me, those are three biggest things in my life after technology, the web and entrepreneurship. What I really want my site to be is a place where I can just write about whatever I want, and hopefully over time my opinions and insights may be of some value to readers. It’s still a work in progress, but I am very aware of how important having a strong personal brand is and how it will be good to take these steps now towards my future.
Chris Cameron is a technology journalist from Tempe, AZ. He spends most of my days writing for ReadWriteWeb, one of the top 20 blogs and top 5 technology blogs in the world. He mainly contribute to the site’s ReadWriteStart channel where we provide resources, tips and reviews for early-stage startups and first-time entrepreneurs. He has also been known to research and write about emerging technologies like augmented reality for ReadWriteWeb from time to time. He recently graduated with his M.M.C. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University (Dec ’09). He grew up in Boston, moved to Arizona in 1995, and have played drums and percussion since 4th grade.