Meet James Laird (@scavgourmet), Senior Staff Writer at IT Pro Portal (@ITProPortal)

March 3, 2014

By Rosalind Carr @Rosalind_at_O and Rose Ross @Rose_at_O

The Countdown team present tech journo James Laird – chatting ‘phablet’s, food blogging and CODE_n startup buzz at CeBIT 2014!

James gives his insights into the current mobile tech and gadgets trends, THE tech shows to go to and the do’s and don’ts of pitching stories…

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james laird ITPP

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself:

I moved to London back in 2005, having grown up in Boston, and I’ve been involved in journalism ever since graduating from Goldsmiths College. I worked my way around a fair few local newspapers learning the art before entering the tech journalism world roughly two years ago and joining ITProPortal.com as an intern. Since then, I’ve risen to senior writer and am looking forward to the future.

Q. Tell us a little bit about the title you write for and their interest in mobile technology: 

Mobile became my primary beat pretty much as soon as I joined ITProPortal.com and I’ve been developing and refining my knowledge ever since. I’ve learned from some great people and am now enjoying tutoring some our younger writers in the finer points of processors, displays, and operating systems. We try to position ourselves as a unique proposition, covering mobile from a more business, enterprise, and IT relevant perspective than some of our competitiors.

Q. What’s hot in mobiles and telecoms this year?

There’s a number of key trends in mobile this year, including the rise and rise of the phablet, but what’s potentially the game changer is wearable tech. In my opinion, no one has really got it right yet, but it is likely to happen. The key for me will be when the style element begins to match the functionality – for example, when I can have Google Glass-like features built into my Ray-Bans. The features are developing quickly and hopefully the fashion element will catch up soon.

Q. How many events do you attend each year?  Which ones are you most looking forward to? 

I attend multiple events every year, from the big trade shows to specialist enterprise events, user conferences, and localised press tours. Of course, as a mobile fanatic, MWC is a sort of mecca for me. As well as always being jampacked with top manfacturers and quality content, Barcelona is such an amazing city – it’s hard not to get excited about it every year. I’m also really looking forward to getting back to CeBIT this year – I think the CODE_n enterprise startup competition in particular is really exciting and I can’t wait to get to know some of the finalists better.

Q. What types of stories or companies are likely to attract your attention this year? 

First and foremost I suppose, I’m a gadget man, so I’m looking forward to getting hands-on with the latest devices, especially at events. As well as ogling the premium toys, I’m also always keen to see what up-and-coming vendors are doing and what’s proving of interest in emerging markets. I cover a broad range of subjects, so I suppose the most important thing is transparency – I don’t really want to talk to marketing execs waxing lyrical about how great their product is. Overall industry trends? You’ve got my number.

Q. What’s the best way to pitch a story to you? Email? Phone? Twitter? By mail? And how many interviews do you do per week? 

Email first and foremost but I’m also happy to chat on the phone whenever I’m available – if we already have a relationship, you’ll know that I always try to make time. Between the team, we like to engage as much as possible with senior executives and the like, but we have to take it on a case-by-case, week-by-week basis based on our resource situation at that particular moment.

Q. Who is worth listening to (about mobiles and telecoms)?  And what are your favourite blogs?

I think Nate Lanxon at Wired writes fantastic product reviews, and I also follow Sascha Segan from PCMag closely when it comes to mobile. The Verge is obviously highly revered in tech circles, but The Next Web was the best site in the world for a short while. Then it seemed to get bored and culled most of its staff. Now it’s just another NIB hole. Tech City News is another great resource.

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology? And what do you think is the most important development in mobiles and telecoms to date? 

The iPhone was the game-changer and my favourite bit of kit will likely always be my Apple smartphone. I was hugely impressed by the HTC One, too, and think Google’s Nexus devices are also very important in a disruptive sense. Going forward, it will be hugely important to see how network and application management software/services respond to the rise of wearable devices, which are currently a bit of a gray area for many infrastructures.

Q. What is the best piece of advice for companies pitching stories?

Patience. There’s nothing worse than getting a phone call 15 seconds after being dropped an email. And emapthy – we’re very busy and can’t cover everything, however hard we try. Pestering isn’t a good strategy.

Q. What was the best press trip you’ve ever been on? Worst? Why?

I always enjoy travelling, so I don’t think there’s really ever been a worst. I’ve had a lot of memorable ones – Taiwan, Boston, Cornwall, Barcelona. It’s hard work, but there’s so much to love about this job. The best are usually distinguished by the quality of participants – the best are the ones with most open representatives. My personal favourite moment to date was interview Jimmy Wales at Alfresco Summit 2013.

Q. Are you a social media lover? Which ones are you on? FB? LinkedIn? Twitter? Quora? Google+?

I am indeed a social media lover and my chosen medium is Twitter. I also interact regularly on LinkedIn on a professional level, but Twitter is where you’re more likely to get an idea of who I am, what I’m interested in, and what ITProPortal is actually about.

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you. Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies/interests? Do you have a claim to fame?

In my spare time, I’m a bit of a foodie and try to blog fairly regularly about my gastronomic activiites. Outside of that, I’m a massive NFL (American football) fan and, at Goldsmiths, was part of our University Challenge team.

Q. What have we forgotten to ask you that we should have?

I’m also a big lover of dogs, especially Labradors!


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