RaceTalk(S) with Former Newsweek Columnist Steven Levy

Four Months After he Announced His Departure from Newsweek – On Facebook – Steven Levy is WIRED for Sound

By Kyle Austin

Back in March, we broke news by confirming the rumors that Steven Levy was leaving Newsweek for Wired. Well, he actually broke the news by posting it on Facebook – we just happen to be his “friend.”

Four months later, after penning his final column for Newsweek last month, Levy is now working from his desk in Wired’s New York offices. We managed to steal his attention (for a few minutes at least) while he caught some air.

Racetalk: Steve you officially announced your move to Wired on March 21st – through Facebook no less – after more then 12 years at Newsweek. It was reported at the time that Wired wooed you with a huge book deal to go along with your move. What was the biggest decision behind your move?

SL: The book deal and the Wired job were independent. I had been thinking of doing a book about Google for a while and finally figured out how to do it.  Around that time Newsweek offered buyouts to people who had been there a certain amount of years, and I qualified.   I had been talking to Wired previously about making the move, and the timing seemed ideal.   I had a great run at Newsweek, and now I’m looking forward to more long-form journalism.

RaceTalk: So you answered my next question. Google is the book project – Why?

SL: Google is a fascinating company and I hope I can explain why.

RaceTalk: Fort the most part – PR folks like myself didn’t waste our time bothering you at Newsweek unless we were going to connect you with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs – what will you be looking for from PR pros at your new job at Wired and what main beat will you be pursuing?

SL: If you didn’t contact me for that reason, you made a mistake (You contacted me on OLPC and I responded). I am lucky to have long-standing relationships with some significant figures in the industry but am always looking for up and comers — and just good stories in general.  Basically my “beat” hasn’t changed — Wired is devoted to the range of subjects I covered at Newsweek — but I will have a chance to get deep into stories.  I’m also doing a front of book column that’s more consumer oriented, so I welcome early news of breakthrough gadgets and stuff (I do mean early–I’ve got a longer lead time to deal with).

RaceTalk: You’ve contributed to Wired for more then a decade as a side job to your regular gig at Newsweek. Sounds like you’ll keep a similar role there?

SL: My job is a writer and my hope is simply to do great stories.

RaceTalk: I was always impressed by your ability to elevate technology stories for mainstream audiences and understood which technology stories had the potential for serious social impact. Do you think you will have to move away from covering those types of stories now that you are at a pub that is more targeted on tech specific issues?

SL: Well, take the “Future of Reading” story I did for Newsweek about the Kindle. Can’t imagine Wired wouldn’t want to do something similar.

RaceTalk: Where will you be based for your new gig? I know you have been spending more time in Silicon Valley but will you be making your residence there or will you still be working at large from your home office?

SL: I will be working out of Wired’s New York City office.

RaceTalk: What do you see as the biggest trend currently happening in consumer tech? Is it the touch-screen phenomenon that Apple has spawned or perhaps something larger like the transition towards greener cconsumer tech products?

SL: Everything, from multi-touch to social networking, stems from the increasing power and ubiquity of computation, storage and broadband. It just gets juicier.

RaceTalk: Finally, is just me or is it somewhat ironic that Newsweek has pegged Fake Steve Jobs (UPDATE: At press time Fake Steve Jobs is now Dan Lyons) to take your old beat after you literally trashed the MacBook Air in one of your final columns for the magazine? Should we look for journalistic revenge from Fake Steve?

SL: It’s just you.

RaceTalk: I tried.

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