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Brad Stone: From Bylines to Headlines in the Tech World

November 19, 2013

It was the battle for bylines when Brad Stone began his career. The Bloomberg Businessweek senior editor, two-time author, and winner of the 2013 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award remembers what it was like in the 1990s to inch his way from Newsweek publicist to news graphics researcher to finally having his name inked at the top of the magazine’s articles as a staff reporter. “At Newsweeek in late 90s, it was very difficult for any young person to get a byline,” says Stone. “There was fierce competition for space in the magazine.”

Technology has since changed the course of byline protocol. Publishing an article to the Web with your John Hancock is as easy as posting a photo to Facebook. Times may have shifted the very definition of who and what a reporter is, but it was Stone’s initial newsroom experience during the dot-com era that helped him find his niche as a hard-hitting technology journalist. The experience has led to interviews with industry game changers like Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page. “I started to style myself as a technology reporter as a way to compete inside Newsweek’s very Darwinian organization, where there were giants – Jonathan Alter, Joe Klein, Howard Fineman – on a regular basis commanding most of the magazine,” says Stone.

The chance to write insightful stories is what keeps Stone motivated to cover the technology industry, where power is rooted in tech’s overarching ability to reach people around the globe and provide innovative solutions to vexing problems. Stone’s been covering technology for Bloomberg Businessweek since 2010.

The tech sector is an engine that continuously redefines the way we live. “It’s the tech community that is changing the course of humanity,” comments Stone. Technological developments in the last five years alone run the gamut from triggering massive social activism in parts of the world where oppression reigns to changing the way people approach everyday activities.

Keeping track of his daily schedule, organizing and storing photos of his kids, and using an e-reader as a primary way of consuming books are a few examples of how Stone utilizes technology to structure his daily life. In his most recent book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” which scored him the 2013 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, Stone tells the story of Amazon and its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the visionary behind the company that redefined a central facet of a thriving free market: retail. “I’m interested in the big ideas, in leaps that completely change the way we live and work,” says Stone.

Although drawn to writing about transformative innovations, Stone doesn’t discriminate against what defines innovation, of which he says “there is no one way to characterize.” Every new social media platform or app, for instance, may not significantly alter our lifestyle, but they’re the building blocks that lead to the leaps that completely change the way we live and work.” Those leaps, once few and far between, are happening much more frequently. “The pace of change seems to be accelerating,” says Stone, who doesn’t see the rate new technology is released slowing down anytime soon. Adaptability “slows down for certain generations though,” says Stone. The idea of having less of a need or desire to integrate new technology into your life tends to happen “the older you get,” he says. “Young people are driving it forward, finding ways to use it differently.”

While he doesn’t find much use for some popular apps, Stone doesn’t hold back from experimenting with them, a necessary practice considering the diverse nature of his audience. “I’m always writing not only for sophisticated Silicon Valley readers, but also for a mainstream audience, so people who aren’t in the tech world can understand what is happening around them,” says Stone. His 15 years of work in the tech sector reflects this ethic, as well as his devotion and drive for reporting on technology revolutions, big and small.

Contributed by Andrea Posner, staff writer of On Bloomberg, Bloomberg LP’s internal newswire.