Axed MacTalk veterans form new consumer tech site

By Tim Lince in Media News on

Niche Media’s decision to cut staff from its sole digital-only asset, MacTalk, a fortnight ago has spurred a group of ousted writers to get together and form a new consumer technology brand, called Reckoner.


The site was launched on Monday, and will have two long-form features a week, along with a weekly podcast and shorter daily content. Editor James Croft, who was a regular contributor to MacTalk and runs an education technology consultancy called Go Make, told ITJourno that he didn’t want to create “just another tech news site — that's definitely played-out at this point”.


“We're not chasing the breaking news scene,” he said. “I think we'll do a very small amount of content compared to most other sites, but we will do it really well — they'll be big, they'll look good, they'll have personality and I hope they'll make you think.”


The weekly Reckoner podcast will be hosted by Peter Wells, who led the long-running MacTalk podcast until its end a fortnight ago. Croft said the exact format of the podcast is currently undecided, although a preview episode has been uploaded to iTunes already.


Also on the team so far is Anthony Agius, another former MacTalk veteran, as a features writer. With a core base of writers known for their Apple coverage, Croft is quick to point out that the site will serve all facets of technology.


“Both Peter (Wells) and myself have always danced across multiple platforms; he rolls with an Android phone these days, I regularly use a Windows 8 gaming box,” he said. “I'm just really incredibly excited to look outward and write broader stories about any technology that's enhancing Australian lives.”


“But look, Reckoner will definitely have some Apple coverage (especially with the site launch date, which coincided with WWDC 2013), but that's the nature of the beast with tech coverage in Australia,” he added. “Our broader aim is to report on tech culture in Australia, and how people live their lives alongside technology in all kinds of unique ways.”


To highlight the point, the first major feature is not about an Apple product, but analyses the trendy new Jawbone UP health device. In the pipeline, Croft  revealed, includes features on “vinyl collectors living with digital music, food critics chasing down Foursquare recommendations, fashion designers selling their stuff through Instagram and Pinterest and an extensive piece on the telco industry”.


“I want to highlight people who have bent technology to their will in order to help them do interesting and creative things,” Croft added. “At the other end, I'm also endlessly fascinated by how the mundane stuff in our lives, or friends and family, change because of technology.”


Inception and influences


Reckoner has only been in development for four weeks, with Croft (pictured) crediting the “very fast start” to Niche Media’s very sudden MacTalk staff cut, saying he thought “the situation would be better used by giving those great writers a place to publish their work.”


“I wanted the site to be something simple, and not distracting,” he said. “From there though, I've been working quite hard on the design to make sure feature pieces shine with big type, big images and a design that's pleasurable to read first and foremost.”


Influences are far and wide, although Croft says the main influence is The Verge who he says “did great things to show how a feature pieces could be done, both stylistically and content-wise”.


“A great piece should not be stuffed into a small column on the edge, it should have space to breathe, and they really understand that,” he said.


“We're also doing short linked-list style pieces — if you read the typical brigade of Apple blogging sites like Daring Fireball, The Loop or even M.G Siegler's personal site Parislemon you'll know what I mean by that.


“Finally, design-wise I really like Jeffrey Zeldman and his approach to typography and design. Believe it or not, another design influence for me was the Evernote Clearly Chrome extension; I do tons of reading using it. I'm always appreciative of a site that isn't afraid to go big with text.”


The site has already launched Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages, and Croft added that he is “always looking for new contributors with a story to tell”.


How PRs can assist


PR practitioners can send a range of press releases and pitches to the team at Reckoner, although the more unique the better.


“I'm mostly interested in apps, technology or products that have a tech slant to them, but are being used to do stuff outside the normal realm of technology — such as fitness, food, art, healthcare, music, education, fashion,” Croft explained.


The site will also be incorporating “an element of review” into some future features, and PRs may be able to assist with this.


“Obviously so much of our world is mobile now, so I'm generally on the hunt for stuff that's mobile-enabled,” Croft said. “I've found a lot of success with reviews of products that either enable creative people, or that spill out somehow into real-life. Also especially helpful would be if there's someone interesting who's already using that product or service out there.


“For example, you are pitching a bluetooth tattoo machine (don't laugh, I bet it will happen one day). I want to talk to and photograph the guy who's got it hooked up to his phone somehow, and how bikies are now texting him their next design.”


Event invites are also wanted, and it’s worth noting the Reckoner team is spread out across Australia — with Croft in Brisbane, Wells in Sydney and Agius in Melbourne. Croft states that he will personally travel to an event “if it hits that sweet spot hovering between technology and culture”.


Finally, acknowledging the Reckoner audience “doesn’t click on ads”, Croft said he is going down the sponsorship route for revenue.


“What we do know is that our audience of Australian tech tastemakers definitely spend money,” he said. “So, we're aiming to do weekly site sponsorships with a sponsored post on the site and podcast episode sponsorships with a live ad read-out. So if you represent a start-up, or a local business that wants to reach our audience in a uniquely powerful way, please get in touch.”

PRs and journalists can get in touch with editor James Croft by email ( or on Twitter.


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