Many aspiring tech reviewers and journalists alike will most likely spend their day looking at other tech news websites. If this sounds like you, then you may have heard of TechnoBuffalo. TechnoBuffalo was created To help you get the most out of your tech lifestyle.
It all started when Jon Rettinger, a fellow tech-enthusiast (or I would call a “techie”) unboxed of a 2007 MacBook Pro. Over the past 7 years, Jon has gone from running a one-man YouTube channel to a leading his company TechnoBuffalo and a team of writers and other fellow “techies”.
This is just a sample of the videos that Jon produces, this being Ask the Buffalo (with some questions from yours truly).
TheCanadianTechie: Where did your love of technology being?
Jon Rettinger: I’ve always loved technology, as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved technology. I don’t know where it has began, I’ve always sort-of gravitated towards electronic things ever since I was little kid. I just loved it.
CT: What did you study in school?
JR: I got my undergraduate degree in university in religious history, it was very writing intensive. Then I went back to graduate school and got my masters degree in business administration, to teach me how to how to run a business
CT: Did you always know you had this passion for technology?
JR: I’ve always known, but never in a million years, realize that I could make a living from it or make a career out of it. It always something that I’ve loved and always have been drawn to and I remember just sitting, 8 years ago, and reading tech sites, over and over again when I should have been doing work. I just love it.
CT: How did it occur to you that, people were reviewing technology for a living? Was that the moment you decided to start your YouTube channel (Jon4Lakers)?
JR: It didn’t even really occur to me that people were doing this. I just thought it was something that I could do. YouTube was just starting off the partner program and I was able to monetize something that I loved to do. And then I did just a lot of it and soon I was able to make enough money to support myself. I was shocked and it was very early on in the program and I didn’t know how many other people were doing at the time, but when I realized that I could do it, I was floored.
CT: If you had to pick one thing that you’ve reviewed, which would be your favourite? (It could also be just as simple as a certain product that comes out every year from a certain company?)
JR: My favourite thing that I ever reviewed was the original iPhone. Multitouch was something that had never been seen before, on-screen keyboard was something I had never seen before, a real web browser on a phone, I had never seen before. The first iPhone is always going to standout as a product that I will always remember. I remember going into the Apple store and picking it up and couldn’t believe that I could get one, I bought two, so I could sell one later. It was just a very cool process, I remember I got it home and I was so excited and the speaker was broken on it. Super bummed out about it and I had to go back the next morning and luckily they still had some in stock, so I swapped it out for one that didn’t have a broken speaker. Then I was excited again. So I get to unbox it twice, which was kind of cool.
CT: When you created your YouTube channel: Jon4Lakers, did you ever think that it would have grown into something as big as TechnoBuffalo?
JR: Never in a million years, never ever, ever and anyone who tells you they knew what they were doing and had a master plan, is lying through their teeth. Nobody ever saw this coming and I would have picked a way better username, if I ever though of the success in Jon4Lakers.
CT: How did you create an audience for both your YouTube channel & the TechnoBuffalo site?
JR: We kind-of had the reverse of most sites; most sites have text first and then videos secondary. We started videos first, as our site started to grow, our YouTube channel started to grow. I realized that a lot of websites, weren’t putting any emphasis on video, they were just doing some video, but there was nothing really immersive, nothing showing the product, it was very stale and boring. So I thought that I could create a website that emphasizes the video, and sort-of keep that vision, as TechnoBuffalo has grown. There is a big gap to fill and the reason we’ve grown so fast in a short period of time is because we already had that built-in audience. People will search YouTube quite a bit, it’s the second largest search engine, so anyone that is searching for products, automatically can see TechnoBuffalo and go straight to the website and we’re not always fighting Google rank for the article and we have YouTube as our secret weapon, and in our back pocket as well.
CT: Do you have a special process to help decide what kind of stuff you would like to see on the YouTube channel or on the site?
JR: We have a very simple process, I’ve kept this rule all the way through the growth, if it’s a video that I would watch, and we’ll make it. If it’s a product that I’m interested in, then we’ll make it. If it’s something that I won’t watch, then we won’t make it.
CT: How do you deal with negative feedback, whether it be on one your videos, or an article?
JR: That’s a hard one… I’m still not very good as I, in all honesty, it still sort-of bugs me. I always fight the urge to reply back. It just sort-of comes with territory. People will scream at you and yell at you. People will just throw awful words at you and I take advantage of the block button and I’ll delete comments. That always makes me feel a little bit better, and I’ll do the same thing on the website. I don’t mind constructive criticism, I don’t mind that at all, it is valid; I’m certainly far from perfect. And certainly I welcome ways to improve, as long as it’s constructive. The other stuff, I just try to ignore it and put it in the back of my mind and move on.
CT: Do companies ever force you to give their product a good review, while the product is not good at all?
JR: They’ve tried; we’ve never done it, ever ever EVER done it. Companies don’t try to do it anymore, they did when we were younger, and they absolutely tried. They threatened not to send us products. There are definitely some overly aggressive PR people who make threats and my response to that is: I’m going to share this conversation with our audience that evens it out quickly. Another thing to remember is to never be afraid to push back on PR people. Their job is to get the best press for their company as possible and not to get yourself pushed around.
CT: What is a typical review process like? What is involved?
JR: Let’s say we get a phone in, we’ll do a quick unboxing video, I’ll setup the phone, test it out for a day or so and then film some first impressions. Usually I’ll use a device for a minimum of 7 days before I do a review. I’ll take notes throughout the process and if something doesn’t work, works great or there is something weird, then I’ll write it down. When I get to the actual review, I’ll go back through my notes and I’ll put my thoughts together. What I don’t do is look at someone else’s review of the device. We use our devices for much longer than anybody else, so reviews are usually out long before ours even comes. So I try and black out all those opinions and focus on my own.
CT: Is there a certain “TechnoBuffalo” writing style that you want your writers to follow?
JR:We have a full writer’s guide and style guide for the company. So our staff can refer to stylistically, but I don’t want to change the writer’s voice to be a sort of monotonous tone, I want the writers to write in their own style. I encourage them to do so within our guidelines.
CT: What is a normal day of work like for you?
JR:I usually get up around 6 AM; I’ll stay in bed and use my tablet for about 45 minutes while slowly getting up, checking emails and seeing what’s going on for the day. I come into the office between 7:30 and 8, and then go through more emails. Nobody else gets there until 9, so it’s nice and quiet here. I’ll finish going through emails and I’ll start figuring out what I’ve got to film for the day and get my notes ready.
I’ll set the rest of my meetings for the day, the rest of the staff gets in at 9 and I’ll start filming at 9:30 and film for a couple of hours, there’s a lot of meetings and a lot of contract stuff that I have to do. It is a lot of unglamorous behind the scenes work. Plus staff management and payroll stuff to do. My wife and I just had a baby about a year ago and I made a point of getting in early, but I leave at 5 on the dot, so then I can spend time with him before he has to go to bed. So come 5 o’clock, I’m out of here, to make sure to put him to bed at 7:30 and I want to spend time with my son, that’s why I had kids right? So I can leave at 5 so I can get home and spend time with my family, which is very important to me.
CT: How many staff members do you have at TechnoBuffalo?
JR: So we have 6 people in the California office, but then we have 12 total in the company.
CT: Where do you see yourself and TechnoBuffalo in the next 5-10 years?
JR: We are independent, we’re not owned by anybody and we’ve been proudly independent. We have had a lot of offers to sell the company and I’ve refused all those offers. I’m fortunate to make a nice living, if suddenly I had way more money, it wouldn’t change my life at all but I wouldn’t have a company. Then I wouldn’t get to lead a business the way I want to. So I don’t know if we are ever going to sell. My goal for TechnoBuffalo is to be the premier online resource for consumer electronics, information until we are the premier or largest site out there, I won’t be happy. We’ve got a long way to go, other sites have been around for decades and are owned by CBS, AOL and FOX and all that money, meanwhile we’re independent, fighting and have got a third of the size staff as the other ones. We’ve done really well and come up very fast. I hope we continue to grow and I hope to give other people the opportunity to live their dreams like I have. Also be able to hire more people and I hope that we continue to do good work. I hope people are still interested in what we have to say.
CT: What immediate future plans do you have for TechnoBuffalo? (Is there still an app on the way?)
JR: We are slowly working on an app. We just moved offices; we built a whole studio inside the office. We’ll have sets and be able to control the lighting and audio.
CT: If you had to choose, which company do you think has changed the tech industry the most and do you see them leading us into the future of technology?
JR: Apple, for sure, has changed the tech industry the most, I think Apple overall and Google most recently. Apple has ushered in this smartphone era and I think Google has done an incredible job about pushing the envelope on new technologies. Trying and not being afraid to try new things and beta test in public, things such as Google Glass, I know I might not necessarily like it but I can see what they’re trying to do with it. I think those two companies are doing an incredible job in the world and for the consumer electronics industry.
CT: What advice do you have for aspiring tech reviewers & journalists, the ones that are looking to achieve the same thing as you?
JR: It is really crowded now and hard to get noticed, especially your videos. The best I can say is to find your own voice find your own style and try not to copy anyone else and don’t be afraid to put your personality into the videos and people can watch a million unboxing videos for a million devices and they come and watch yours because of you. You are your own differentiating factor.
You can see more of the content that Jon produces at TechnoBuffalo
Also you can follow Jon on Twitter, @Jon4Lakers