As the oldest technology magazine in the world, Technology Review’s interests—from technological innovation to neurobiology to education—are broader than a lot of other tech titles. That’s because the M.I.T.-published magazine, established in 1899, was started before the advertising era even began. “Our mission is somewhat different in that we aren’t trying to please vertical advertising groups,” says Jason Pontin, Technology Review’s editor and publisher. “We pre-date advertising.”
Luckily, the magazine’s editorial—as evidenced by two consecutive years of collecting multiple FOLIO: Awards—isn’t as stodgy as its age suggests.
Technology Review won the best full issue in consumer computing, and three of its staff-written stories (David Rotman’s “The Price of Biofuels”; Emily Singer’s “Brain Damage in Iraq”; and David Talbot’s “Una Laptop por Nino”) registered a clean sweep of the gold, silver and bronze in the best single article in the technology/computing category.
Highly Technical, But Basic, Too
Each story begins with a fairly fundamental technology issue, which leads to a broader, more interesting—and often human—question.
For Rotman’s “Biofuels” piece, Pontin wanted to emphasize the economic impact of the technology-driven issue while making the point that a “purely-electric” fuel economy is highly impractical. “It was a classic Technology Review story,” says Pontin. “Highly technical in one sense, but really a basic economic article that added a very human element.”
Spending 14 Months on Bioweapons
And these aren’t quick articles, mind you. Pontin says Technology Review features can take up to a year or more. A story on pathogenic bioweapons took 14 months to report. “We didn’t want to get anything wrong,” he says, adding that the magazine “regards the feature well as the place where we do our most serious journalism.”
“The magazine must do what a magazine does best.” That is, Pontin, like many editors, sees the magazine, with an average paid circulation of 182,000, as the primary outlet for long-form journalism, pieces with “an essayistic quality” and colorful imagery that “doesn’t reproduce well on a screen.”
TechnologyReview.com, meanwhile, took home another Eddie in the online community category. The Web site, which averages about 700,000 unique visitors a month, “trucks in daily news” and functions as a place where “readers go to get our take on daily technology events.” Its print and Web audiences are different, with about a 20 percent overlap, Pontin says.
Both products, however, have the same challenge of describing the emerging technology’s social, commercial and political impact to a highly-varied, tech-savvy audience—which may be largely uniformed on a particular topic.
Says Pontin: “The goal is for the reader to go, ‘Oh, I get it—that makes sense.’”