Om-Niscient: A Much-Deserved Mash Note to Tech Blogger Om Malik
Of course, I was jammed yesterday with a trip and then the big news of Facebook forking over $19 billion for WhatsApp in the endless hamster-wheel cycle that is sometimes my life, so I missed the news about Om Malik.
And, today is no different:
8 am: breakfast with Yahoo exec who shall remain nameless
9 am: write piece about what Yahoo exec who shall remain nameless told me
10 am: ponder what the WhatsApp acquisition means for Silicon Valley and then conclude: Who cares but other tech bloggers?
11 am: meeting at YP.com
12 pm: lunch at Uber
2 pm: working with reporter to get potentially controversial story just right
3 pm: meeting new startup for possible demo at Code Conference
4 pm: meeting about Revere Digital board
5 pm: cry to myself in the bathroom about not having time to cry in the bathroom
6 pm: pick up kids at futsal; feel guilty about not cooking for kids; realize kids are happier with Thai take-out; thank my lucky stars for Thai take-out
7 pm: see 5 pm
8 pm: fall asleep before I can binge-watch “House of Cards”
But, if truth be told and all kidding aside, I love it like you can’t imagine and that’s largely due to the inspiration I received like a bolt from the blue a decade ago from Om.
Yesterday, the pioneering tech blogger announced on his personal blog and also on his eponymous site Gigaom that he had “hung up my reporter’s notebook for good and retired from the news business,” to become a full partner at True Ventures, the seed investor for Om’s independent media efforts that began in 2006.
While Om has not been my only touchstone in the critical department of hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a show-that’s-all-ours — hello, Walt! — there is no question that his launch of Gigaom back then was one of the major watershed moments of my career.
I remember sitting in my office at the Wall Street Journal and thinking: Wait. What?
Having long been on the then-gravy train of working for a large and powerful newspaper — first at the Washington Post and then at the Journal — the kind of work Om was doing without all the claptrap of supposed media power was hard not to be riveted by.
A sassy tech blog with class and standards and ethics and a big, big voice? A well-regarded journalist who stepped away from a huge media company — in his case, Time Inc. — to do his own thing? All with the fantastic cigar and the ridonkulous hat and taking his fine reporting and writing and doing it in the forthright way we all knew all along it should be written?
That is pretty much what made me realize that what Walt Mossberg and I had already been doing with our D: All Things Digital conference — started years earlier — could really be a 365/7/24 thing. It was an idea we had wanted to launch for years, but never did for a variety of reasons. But seeing Om do it so well made all the difference in finally following through on our belief in 2007 that it was well past time to disrupt media.
But Om has been much more than a disruptor. He has also been a generous and kind adviser to anyone who needed help, including to competitors; a smart and analytical writer, whose fog-horn sensibilities nearly always cut through the incessant soup of hype that blankets the Bay Area tech landscape; a terrific reporter at his core, who knows news, has a nose for news and, well, knows it.
I will never forget at a party he threw on a San Francisco rooftop when he once fake-bowed to me in adorkable deference that was entirely undeserved at that moment, because he was the real star at the time.
Nor when he thanked Walt and me for having Apple’s Steve Jobs onstage at many of our conferences and getting him to talk about a range of topics he never had before. Because — while Om had a gimlet eye for mindless cheerleading of tech — he never lost the sense that true innovation was at the heart of the industry and what made it so special.
Simply put: Om has been critical without being cynical. He’s been hard, but never unfair. He’s made judgments, but never without strong reporting to back up his assertions.
While he said he will still contribute some columns and appear at Gigaom events and noted that “I am seriously excited to start this new phase of my life,” Om also added in his typical honest way that it was a “tough and emotional decision.”
I’ll bet — because Om has long been on the same hamster wheel I enjoy riding so very much. As he wrote:
“Living a 24-hour news life has come at a personal cost. I still wake in the middle of the night to check the stream to see if something is breaking, worrying whether I missed some news. It is a unique type of addiction that only a few can understand, and it is time for me to opt out of this non-stop news life.”
I get it and I am happy for him, of course, and that he has left Gigaom on firm ground, announcing $8 million in new funds from investors. He will also stay on the board at the media and research outlet, so Om is not exactly exiting stage left.
That’s a good thing, because now and always the tech world needs the kind of omniscient types that knock it all back into reality from the casual lies it tells itself far too often and then begins to believe as truth.
From Medieval Latin, omniscient means “all-knowing,” which kind of sums up Om a lot of the time.
His own name also is defined as a “mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra.” Perhaps that’s going too far — I know he’d think (and say) so.
So let’s just agree that it’s been a good name — a really good name — to represent tech journalism online and we’re all the better for it and owe him a debt of gratitude.
I know for sure I am and I do.