Photo: Mark Gurman
At the end of January, 9to5Mac writer Mark Gurman reported Apple was unexpectedly going to release a new version of the iPad.This model would be 128 gigabytes, giving it twice as much storage as Apple’s biggest iPad at the time, which had a 64 gigabyte hard drive. A few days later, Microsoft was supposed to release its Surface Pro tablet. It would make sense for Apple to upstage Microsoft by introducing a more enterprise friendly version of the iPad.
Yet, Gurman was the only person with the scoop. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, All Things D, and just about everyone else missed the story.
Sure enough, three days later Apple confirmed it was going to sell a 128 gigabyte iPad.
This wasn’t the first time Gurman beat his better funded, more established colleagues. He also broke the news of Siri getting baked into the iPhone, he was one of the first people with iPhone 5 casings, had an early look at Apple’s Maps, and had the inside story of what Tim Cook told Apple’s employees in a recent all-hands meeting, just to name a few of his big stories.
A reporter breaking news isn’t particularly newsworthy in and of itself. For a lot of reporters, it’s part of the job description.
What makes Gurman unique is that he’s a 19-year-old freshman at Michigan, currently studying a little bit of everything — economics, communications, calculus, etc. He tells us that he’s in the process of applying to attend its business school next year.
Gurman has no formal journalism training. He learned on the job, which he started doing when he was still in high school. Odds are he’s not going to be a journalist when he’s done with school, though he told us, “I think no matter what I do, I will always have journalism with me at least as a hobby.”
He’s pretty tight lipped about how he developed into one the world’s best Apple reporters, but his boss, Seth Weintraub was a little more forthcoming.
Over email, Weintraub told us, “I think it is really about his intense curiosity which drives him to find and establish relationships over social media and other channels that most people (myself included) wouldn’t seek out. He may not get a response from 99 people but that 100th one could be that golden source. The curiosity also drives him to learn about every little thing about Apple and other tech companies which add context and depth in his posts. In other words, it is good old fashion hard work and smarts.”
Weintraub founded 9to5Mac in 2007. He hired Gurman in 2010 after Gurman dug up some information on Apple registering an iSlate domain name.
At the time he was in high school. To balance school, blogging, and social life, Gurman says he was writing after school when he was in high school. Now his writing is more sporadic, squeezed in when he has time between classes and assignments.
For fun, he plays and watches basketball. He says most of his friends are outside of the tech world, but they read his stuff.
Despite the fact that his work is only part-time, his pay check from 9to5Mac is not. Weintraub tells us, “I have an unorthodox model where I give my writers ad space on their posts and on the homepage. For Mark in particular, it has been very successful because his exclusives get a lot of attention.”
How successful? Weintraub says he “makes enough money to buy a Tesla every year (he hasn’t…yet) with change left over.” Teslas generally sell for ~$100,000 a pop.
9To5Mac isn’t a huge site. According to Quantcast, it gets about 3 million unique visitors per month. It also gets between 13 million and 25 million page views per month. Thanks to Gurman’s scoops, as well as Weintraub’s scoops, plus the hard work of a group of dedicated writers its influence is much bigger than its readership.
We’re not the first people to notice Gurman. Philip Elmer DeWitt, one of the wise old voices in Apple blogging, also wrote about Gurman last year.
John Paczkowski, deputy managing editor at AllThingsD, and a very good Apple reporter in his own right had this to say about Gurman when we asked him, “I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark. He’s accurate and well-sourced on hardware news — so well-sourced I sometimes wonder if he’s Phil Schiller’s nephew or something. I broke my fair share of Apple news last year, and I still spent more time than I’d have liked chasing Mark.” (Phil Schiller is Apple’s SVP of Marketing. He’s not related to Gurman.)
Paczkowski isn’t the only one chasing Gurman, but Gurman won’t reveal how he’s done it. The closest to a clue he would reveal: “Be trustworthy.”
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