The Mossberg Consumer

Today Walt Mossberg wrote his last column for the Wall Street Journal.

Like many in the world of tech (and many outside of it), I’ve been reading Walt Mossberg’s personal technology column for most of the past two decades.

I started reading Mossberg before I was ever involved in tech or tech media, and have continued to do so even as my understanding of technology grew and as it became an important part of my profession.

And it’s not like my options for tech reviews were limited. In fact, they’ve multiplied by a few orders of magnitude. But unlike the million or so tech review sites that have launched over the past decade and a half, Mossberg has been covering consumer tech same way, consistently, for the whole ride: by writing for non-technical consumers as his first and only audience.

The reason that’s important is that most tech review sites are written for the enthusiast, the types who live and breathe technology. You know the kind, the folks (like many of my good friends) who obsess over every technical nuance and hyper-analyze every detail of every new gadget.

But Mossberg has kept it simple, focusing on why a given product works or doesn’t for the average consumer. For my parents, for your parents, and for anyone for whom technology is not an obsession, but something they need to make a decision about with their hard-earned, disposable income.

And as a consumer tech analyst, it’s always been extremely important for me to keep that consumer in mind. That’s because that consumer – the Mossberg consumer – is the one that is going to make or break a market in the long run, not the Android, iPhone or Xbox fanboys that treat tech reviews as combat sport.

In a sense, it’s kind of an outdated role in today’s media-saturated, social network world, and some say that as folks like Mossberg move on to new-media confines and away from their perches in old media, the mass-market consumer tech reviewer is becoming a thing of the past. Maybe, but for folks like me – analysts, consumer tech product managers, and anyone really trying to really understand consumers – it will still be important to follow those voices who help us better understand what’s important for the mass-market – or Mossberg – consumer.