How the Mercury News covers tech on SiliconBeat
Sumagaysay has been with the Mercury News since 1998 in various positions, including a copy editor and designer, business copy chief, assistant business editor and business and tech news producer. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism.
SiliconBeat covers tech news and events in Silicon Valley. It merged with Good Morning Silicon Valley in 2013 and is one of the many websites in the Bay area dedicated to covering tech news.
Sumagaysay spoke by email with Talking Biz News about SiliconBeat. What follows is an edited transcript.
How did the paper decide to start SiliconBeat?
I wasn’t the founding editor of SiliconBeat, but for years I did write a separate tech blog/newsletter called Good Morning Silicon Valley, which is one of the oldest tech blogs around. SiliconBeat was started by the Mercury News’ business department amid the rise of tech blogs. We merged the two blogs in 2013.
Why make it a separate site instead of putting all of the content on the Mercury News site?
The Mercury News and the Bay Area News Group have standalone blogs for many different topics, such as tech, sports, entertainment, politics.
Who do you see as SiliconBeat’s competitors?
Anybody who covers tech and Silicon Valley, from newspapers to dedicated tech blogs.
Some tech news sites charge for access. Is that something that the paper has considered?
We’re constantly looking at different ways to make money.
We average about four to six posts a day. It depends on news and how many reporters are available. All our bloggers write for the newspaper, too.
What have the site’s visitors and page views been like?
We have not broken those numbers out in public. But we have won a couple of Editor and Publisher Awards for our category of best business blog with under 1 million unique monthly visitors.
How do you try to set the content apart from other tech news coverage?
Our reporters’ posts are informed by their work for the newspaper, which include extensive beat coverage. The posts can complement in-depth pieces, or follow up on something we’ve covered before or for a while. I also encourage light-hearted looks at the news when possible.
Is there an area of coverage that you’d like for SiliconBeat to improve?
There’s always room for improvement. We’ve lost a couple of reporters recently, so we haven’t been able to cover startups, venture capital and Apple as much as we’d like. Our biggest challenges are manpower and time.
What’s your typical day like?
I scan for tech news of the day starting at about 4 or 4:30, and try to have suggestions and assignments ready for our bloggers by the time they first check their email in the mornings.
I also help maintain the Mercury News and SiliconValley.com websites. I post business and tech wire stories and make sure that news is presented and packaged well. All this stuff also can lead to blogging ideas.
I also blog each day, including posts about tech and policy, or other news that interests me that the beat reporters may not have time to write about.
I compile each morning’s blog posts into the Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter, which we send out to email subscribers every weekday, usually around 11 a.m.
Once GMSV is sent, I’m technically off for the day, but I suggest and edit and promote posts on social media all throughout the day.
What types of stories get the most readers?
Posts about the newer big-name tech companies, such as Apple and Tesla, get the most traffic. But we’ve also found plenty of interest in stories about the old-school companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Intel. And issue-oriented posts, such as ones about H-1B visas, get a lot of reader engagement.
What’s been the most important lesson that the paper has learned with SiliconBeat?
The blog thrives because of the many different voices that contribute to it. That said, a group blog also requires a dedicated editor who knows what’s been covered, how and when and by whom, to make sure things run smoothly.