From Microsoft to the iPhone, getting technology right for 25 years – CNET

Posted: June 21, 2020 at 1:53 pm

The first iPhone's unveiling was a turning point in technology.

Editor's note: As part of CNET's 25th birthday, we're publishing a series of guest columns by former CNET leaders, editors and reporters. You'll find Dan's bio below.

In 1995, I was working in Boston as the editor-in-chief of PCWeek, the leading computer industry news weekly. It was part of the Ziff-Davis stable of technology publications and fledgling websites.

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In the summer, Ziff-Davis made the decision to bring all the sites under a single umbrella called ZDNet. I signed on as the editor-in-chief and cat herder, charged with bringing all the content from across the publications into a new kind of tech information resource purpose-built for the internet. The idea was to bring the ink printed on pages into a digital world that was unbounded for content.

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Around the same time,CNET was starting up in San Francisco, an upstart TV-internet hybrid taking on establishment media at the intersection of technology and culture.

Over the next five years, ZDNet and CNET became archrivals, competing for eyeballs, making each other better and growing at a fast pace as technology burrowed deeper into our lives. In July 2000, as the dot-com bubble was bursting, the two rivals decided they were better off combining forces than fighting to the death in a traumatized, shrinking market for advertising. CNET acquired ZDNet for $1.6 billion in stock, and for the next 14 years I had many of the best years of my career in journalism.

Former CNET editor Dan Farber

Operating as two distinct brands, CNET and ZDNet together had a broad portfolio of tech-oriented sites addressing different audiences, from IT executives and gamers to tech news devotees and product fanatics. The powerhouse of talented journalists, product experts, video producers and developers pushed the creative boundaries of the new technology-driven century across print, online and broadcast -- and also inspired a flock of competing publications and a new generation of tech journalists.

We broke dozens of big news stories, chronicled the boom and bust cycles, the rise of the cloud, the colonization of the internet and the birth of a tech universe now ruled by the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebookand Microsoft. CNET could make or break products with the most trusted reviews in the industry. ZDNet created one of the first blog networks, featuring dozens of the most insightful writers and thinkers chronicling the tech industry. When CBS acquired CNET in 2008, we brought CBS News into the digital age.

There were many highlights during my tenure at CNET. The launch of the iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007, stands out as a kind of culmination of all the technology innovation over the last 50 years. But it was mostly working with a group of people deeply passionate about technology and getting it right.

Dan Farber is currently SVP of Strategic Communication at Salesforce. Prior to Salesforce, he spent 35 years as a journalist, serving as editor-in-chief of ZDNet, CNET News and CBSNews.com. He was also the editor-in-chief at Ziff-Davis' flagship computing news publications, PC Week and MacWeek, a founding editor at MacWorld magazine, and a member of the editorial staff of PC World and PC Magazine.

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From Microsoft to the iPhone, getting technology right for 25 years - CNET

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