Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With Charlie White

Today I take pride in having Charlie White with me here at Elite Choice, and I’m sure it’s going to be true bliss for my readers as well. For this installment, I wish I could revise my title from “Elite Blogger” to “Elite Blogebrity” as befits this established and experienced mammal of the blogging eco-system, but in the interest of consistency, I apologize for sticking to the latter.

When I approached him, asking if he would be interested in sharing his knowledge with my readers, his response was, “Sure, I’d be happy to.” That’s when my respect for him increased twofold, because even though the guy was engaged in a number of things, he still found time for us. When we caught up with Charlie, he was on his way to LA, visiting Dreamworks on a hot and confidential story, but soon thereafter quickly answered my list of questions.

White is now Associate Editor of an NBC Universal technology and consumer electronics site, Dvice. Prior to this, he was busy adding value to tech site Gizmodo by bringing 11 years of experience to the table, improving its readership from 7 million page views per month to 84 million monthly page views within 2 years, writing 4484 posts, including features, reviews and news stories.

Did I tell you he is an Emmy-award winning television professional and a professional musician who holds a double major from the University of Miami in music and television?

White is a quick, confident and honest person and it is quite apparent from his responses.

Tell us about your flow of day at work?

I work nine to five. First I read about 150 RSS feeds, finding out what has been done already. Then I write a couple of posts, and usually work on a feature, or review something fun. At lunchtime, I do a quick 2K walk around the neighborhood, a nice way to clear the mind. I wrap it up by 5, unless Stephen Schleicher and I are working on our podcast, Coolness Roundup. We goof around with that until 6:30 on Fridays. It’s all a whole lot of fun.

When did you sense an inclination towards blogging? Are you satisfied with the functionality of the blogging eco-system or think there is a need for revamp?
I liked Gizmodo and noticed the site’s writing style was similar to my own, so I kind of fell into it. I complained about all the grammatical errors on the site, and then they hired me to fix them. That turned into writing for the site, numerous posts a day for two years.
The blogging eco-system ? The blogosphere is due for a shakeup, because there are too many duplicates without any analysis or context added. Blogging is evolving into feature writing and reviews, moving in the direction of hard-core journalism. That’s good. Original content rules; copycats will die.

The maturity in blogging was sensed when many established blogging networks today picked it in 2002-2003. Do you think there is any scope left for evolving bloggers to try their luck?
There’s always room for good writing and keen insight.

Charlie WhiteWhat expertise did you bring to Dvice and what skills do you think have advanced from your position at Gizmodo?
I carefully choose my stories and know where to look for them. I have TV and video experience, which may come in handy when working for a site that’s part of NBC Universal. Also, I’ve been writing for a long time and have developed my own style. Finally, I am able to come up with dozens of ideas at a time, and I’m willing to take chances that could result in sudden, explosive growth.

What level of difference/value addition are you going to offer at Dvice? Having written 4484 posts for Gizmodo and around 150 plus published articles for other channels, is there a set number of posts that you wish to deliver at Dvice?
I hope to offer more unexpected commentary and context to my work at DVICE. I will strive to write things no one has thought of before. How many posts will I write? If I had a crystal ball, I could answer that one, but I am extremely happy working for DVICE. I have a great boss there at 30 Rock in New York, Pete Pachal, who gives me freedom to write about a variety of topics and is a pain-free, surgical editor with a heart of gold. It’s close to an ideal situation for me.

Your, I-have list captures around 230 episodes. It would be difficult but still if you can pick any five things from the list that you take pride in.
That list has more trivia than accomplishments, written for the sheer fun of it. But if I had to pick, these five would be landmarks, in order of occurrence:

  • Recorded an album for CBS Records
  • Directed a large number of live national television broadcasts
  • Won an Emmy Award
  • Designed and supervised construction to completion of a 3500-square-foot house
  • Wrote 4484 posts for Gizmodo over two years

What factors convinced you to switch from print and TV to online and to be more specific blogging? Which one would you count as the best phase of your growth cycle viz. print, online or present blogging?
I had been working in broadcasting since I was in college in 1974, and I was getting fed up with my job at a public TV station where it seemed like everyone was just sleepwalking through their jobs and waiting for retirement. I had dabbled in writing for magazines had a column in three different trade pubs for six years so when the dot-com boom happened, I couldn’t resist jumping into it full time. Over those years, I was writing between 200,000 and 500,000 words per year. Meanwhile, I took the national PBS cooking series I was working on with me, freelance executive producing/directing it myself for one more season for broadcast on PBS. Best phase? I’ve seen the most personal growth with online writing, learning a lot, meeting a lot of interesting people, traveling the world and discovering how hard I can work without dying.

You have been a producer, director, editor, designer, radio announcer, Videographer, camera operator and much more across all four verticals i.e. radio, print, TV and online. After experimenting with numerous avatars, what next dress rehearsal is on cards for Charlie?
Let’s get this straight: This is not a dress rehearsal! Everything we do is for keeps. Next, I’ll help to build DVICE into an even better site than it is now, making it more original, insightful and entertaining unlike anything else on the web. Aside from DVICE, my business partner Stephen Schleicher and I are also working on syndicating our growing webcast, Coolness Roundup, as a national radio broadcast. I also might do a few more video projects here and there. On the home front, I’m going green, designing a completely off-the-grid house, to be constructed in 2012.

Can my savvy readers and fellow bloggers seek at least 10 tips from you that enabled you generate 84 million page views per month at Gizmodo? Besides posting, what all practices you use to exercise to invite readers.
1. Fresh ideas
2. Sharp writing
3. Interesting topics
4. Consistent posting
5. Accuracy
6. Humor
7. Promotion
8. Link generosity
9. Context in every post
10. Be a watchdog, not a lapdog

Your viral video was viewed more than 2.7 million times. What do you think is the reason that led to its phenomenal visibility?
It’s goofy, unusual and there’s never been anything like it. But the biggest reason: its title, GPS Gang Bang. Do you think the word Gang Bang had something to do with it?

Tell us about your ‘must-read’ or favorite blogs?
I always keep up with (and usually avoid duplicating) whatever Gizmodo and Engadget are gushing about. I read tons of blogs. If you want to be a good blogger, you first need to see what everyone else is doing, and then don’t do that. Well, unless it’s a huge story, and then you must make that story your own.

How active are you on social networking sites/engines viz. Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon or Reddit?
I am crazy about StumbleUpon. I never use Delicious or Reddit, and I check into Digg every day. On Digg, sometimes I’m frustrated by the negative comments from people who have done nothing, know nothing and have nothing better to do. The level of discourse is digging down to the depths of YouTube comments. So social networking is a mixed bag for me.

How would you like to be known as:

  • Gadget Guru
  • Blogger
  • Technophile
  • Product Reviewer
  • Multi-tasker
  • Entrepreneur
  • Others

I want to be known as a good husband to my wife and a good father to my daughter. What everyone else thinks of me pales by comparison. I would like to be known as someone who enjoys life and is fun to be with, and whose writing is equally fun to read.

Provide us with your five favorite posts you have written to date.
Monday Night Football: Behind the Scenes

James Randi Offers $1 Million If Audiophiles Can Prove $7250 Speaker Cables Are Better

10 Things to Know When Buying an HD Camcorder

SHIFT: Are solid-state drives really better than hard disks?

Top 10 world-changing electric cars

Introduce us to your three gadgetry possessions that you can’t afford to miss while stepping out.
Dash Navigator, the best GPS device yet. Connected to the web, acts as a probe for other Dash users. Someday all GPS units will be made this way.

Nikon D300 with 18-200mm VR lens: The best DSLR for the money. Great versatility, accurate exposure, perfect colors, excellent lens selection, solid feel, intuitive controls, easy navigation with custom menus.

WiLife security cameras to protect my house while I’m out. Plugs into the wall, cameras watch everything even when you can’t. Great deterrent.

Where do you see the Blogosphere in the future?
The money makers will be narrowed down to a few hundred, they will be the magazines of the future. Millions of hobbyists will keep on blogging, but most of their work will be more akin to typing than writing.

Quick bites:

Hours you invest digging net: 3 hr./day

Biggest blogging mistake you did: Didn’t start a blog in 2000 when I was already writing articles that were blog-like

One hidden truth: I am a supertaster

If asked to post only on one blog (not Gizmodo, Dvice, Coolness RoundUp, PopSci, Wired), which one would that be? Charliewhite.net

Advice you would have given yourself five years ago? Start a gadget blog, and call it Coolness Roundup.

If not a blogger, then a TV director

Life without Internet: either vacation or dark ages

Count of professions you have been into: four

First gadget you kept your fingers upon: Kodak Instamatic camera

Tell us some weird things about you that most of the people don’t know.

  • I am curious about how old the trees are in my yard, and which species they are.
  • I have been playing guitar for 40 years.
  • I like fancy plumbing fixtures, faucets, high-end plumbing tech.
  • I wonder why people are more attached to animals now than they were 30 years ago.
  • I hear music playing in my head almost all the time.
  • I have a collection of trade show badges numbering in the hundreds, and another collection of stickers I’ve been sticking on a trash can I’ve had for 30 years.
  • I still like to watch my wife walk by; she’s as graceful as a ballerina

Give us your honest views on EliteChoice.
Smart blog, nice design and a little tightening in writing can make it much better.

Brian LamWhom would you recommend for being featured as my next EliteBlogger and why?
Talk to Brian Lam from Gizmodo, he’s a good friend and will have some cogent comments for you.

You can ask me one question.
What made you decide to do profiles like this? I think it’s a good idea.
To be honest, three things:
a) Be friends with people like you
b) Generate a platform where bloggers directly can share their experiences at blogosphere
c) I believe in USPs and this move gives me one.

Many thanks Charlie for your notable presence here and we wish you luck for your future ventures and explorations.
Charlie White

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