Notch another win for All Things D.
Since the brand began as a conference in 2003 and added a news
site in 2007, All Things D has become a particular sort of
powerhouse in the overheated space devoted to tech news. It's part
of Dow Jones, so it's got that gravitas, not to mention the talent,
reputation and influence: Its first conference attracted speakers
including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
But it's got the speed and humor of a blog.
It's hard to imagine the Journal publishing an article entirely
about the date of Apple's event to introduce an upgraded iPad in
the first place -- although it might -- but the All Things D post
got to write it in a style that the Journal simply doesn't: "It's
not clear when Apple will begin sending out its famous invites for
the gathering, but I am guessing soon, in order to get the Apple
faithful to the proper level of froth."
That post was by Kara Swisher, who co-founded All Things D along
with another longtime Journal writer, Walt Mossberg, initially as
just a conference. "Just" a conference, the idea went, but also a
"We both went to a lot of conferences and we thought they mostly
sucked and they didn't have real journalistic value," Mr. Mossberg
said last week. He spoke from his house, where he was testing a
competitor to the iPad in his capacity as personal technology
reviewer. "The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones had a conference
division we didn't know much about. We went to them and said, 'Let
us do this.'"
This was years ago, of course, before changes in the media
landscape forced some variation of "entrepreneur" or "business
development" onto the modern journalist's job description. "They
looked at us funny because we were columnists, we were reporters,
and that was it," Mr. Mossberg recalled. "To their credit, they let
us do it."
It may have helped that, even though this was also before "paid
content" became a bit of a grail for the news business, tickets to
the first D conference would begin at $2,495 and rise to $2,995. It
The news site, which now pumps the All Things D brand into the
ecosphere every day all year, took a little longer to sell. But the
tech space was crawling with upstarts of varying degrees of
quality. The Journal was missing an opportunity.
"I'd seen a lot these blogs, especially these tech blogs, which
were just not done by professionals with standards and ethics," Ms.
Swisher said, minutes after posting her iPad 2 event exclusive. "It
irked me that they did so well."
The "previous administration" at Dow Jones, meaning those in
charge before the Bancroft family sold to News Corp. for more than
$5 billion, didn't leap on the blog idea as quickly as it green-lit
the conference, Ms. Swisher said.
"It took awhile to explain blogs to a mainstream media company,"
Ms. Swisher said. "We started with the conference, which was
immediately profitable, which they get. Eventually we had such a
well-known brand we could kind of explain what we wanted to do with
The site went live in April 2007, coincidentally right around
the time Rupert Murdoch was making the Bancrofts an offer. It began
with four writers: Mr. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, who also
continued to write for the Journal; Ms. Swisher; and John
Paczkowski. Peter Kafka, focusing on the media piece of the tech
world, joined in October 2008. And however far and fast last week's
iPad 2 exclusive traveled, the site has often produced meatier
scoops. Traffic is on the rise, averaging 1.4 million visitors a
month last year, up from 887,000 in 2009, according to All Things
The conference has, meanwhile, become a tech touchstone of its
own. You may have seen the video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
sweating and blinking as he struggled to answer questions about
user privacy at D8, the eighth D conference, held last summer. The
ninth iteration of the D conference, this May 31 through June 2,
sold out weeks earlier than anticipated. Standard ticket price:
$4,795. Sponsors include Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Ricoh,
Advanced Micro Devices and NYSE Euronext.
It's less clear, because Dow Jones won't say, whether the site
is profitable in its own right. While the conferences, including
the first D: Dive Into Mobile conference last December, benefit
from dual revenue sources of attendees and sponsors, the site has
only ad sales. Dow Jones points to recent hires at All Things D as
a sign of the site's strength, including Ina Fried on all things
wireless, Tricia Duryee on e-commerce and gaming, Liz Gannes on
social media and Arik Hesseldahl on the enterprise beat, all new
"We really don't talk about profitability, but sometimes actions
speak louder than words," said Kelly Leach, senior VP-strategy for
Dow Jones. "The fact that Dow Jones felt strongly enough about the
site to essentially double down and make a significant investment
in the journalism, that was done because there's a belief that this
can be an even bigger contributor, that this has the potential to
scale in a way that the conference can't."