On “Hard Fork,” a Hard Look at the Future of Technology

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After recording about 90 episodes of “Hard Fork,” a weekly New York Times podcast about technology and business, life is pretty much the same for its hosts, Kevin Roose and Casey Newton. That is, except for the occasional fan encounter, which is a new and sometimes surprising experience for them.

“Just last night, I was having dinner with two friends who were visiting from out of town,” Mr. Newton said. “As I was coming back from the bathroom, a man stopped me. At first, I thought I had met him before because I’m basically prone-blind. But then it turned out he recognized me from our YouTube channel.”

Since the podcast’s first episode in October 2022, Mr. Roose and Mr. Newton have discussed and debated topics including the impending TikTok ban by U.S. regulators, Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, and the ins and outs of the digital company. They’ve interviewed guests including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI.

In the meantime, Mr. Roose and Mr. Newton have changed the format of the podcast, inviting listeners to submit questions, for example. But their mission has remained the same: to inform and entertain.

In an interview, Mr. Newton and Mr. Roose shared their goals for the future of the podcast and their dream guests. These are edited excerpts.

How did you meet?

BY CASEY NEWTON My memory of first meeting Kevin was being invited to a party for his book “Young Money” at the home of Evelyn Rusli, a former Times reporter. I remember walking in and being so annoyed that he was younger than me and already on his second book. I don't even remember meeting him. I'm sure I said hello. I continued to meet Kevin over the years and we developed a friendship.

KEVIN ROOSE I was a subscriber and a big fan of Casey’s newsletter, Platformer, which is a must-read here in Silicon Valley. Platformer is very good and also quite serious, covering topics like content moderation and tech law. I also knew that Casey had another side to him. I knew he had done improv comedy. I knew he was very funny, sharp, and quick-thinking, and that it was a lot of fun to talk about these things with him. So I asked myself, “Could the person who writes this very important and very serious newsletter also be my podcast co-host?”

“Hard Fork” is almost two years old. What has been the feedback from listeners so far?

NEWTONE The typical email says we use the word “like” too much, there are too many “ums,” too much voice chatter. They ask why we talk so much about artificial intelligence.

ROSETTA Casey is sandbagging. We get the best feedback of any project I’ve ever worked on in my career as a journalist. We hear from a lot of people who have really good, smart ideas. It’s very humbling to work on a show where your listeners are smarter than you and have PhDs in molecular biology or are AI researchers.

What was the biggest challenge in making the podcast?

NEWTONE Besides Kevin’s personality? The hardest thing is sometimes there aren’t three things I want to talk about in an episode. There are a lot of tech shows out there that have this consensus by committee, like, “These are the three biggest stories of the week and we’re going to talk about them regardless, even if we don’t feel like we have a strong point.” Kevin and I really try not to do that. We try to steer the podcast where our curiosities go and just talk about things that we have something to say about.

What are your goals for the future of “Hard Fork”?

NEWTONE I want to make sure the show continues to be surprising and creative. One of my original thoughts for “Hard Fork” was that it should feel like “The Price Is Right” in terms of the games and segments. You never know what segments or games are going to appear in a given week. Right now, we’re exploring ideas for other types of segments that belong on the show that would fit with what we do and also allow us to explore more creatively. We want to grow the audience. We want to be the biggest tech show in the world.

ROSETTA I want to be the greatest show in the world, not just a tech show. I want Joe Rogan to kneel before us. That's my goal.

Who is your dream guest?

NEWTONE It's interesting because a lot of the big names end up not being great interviews. But I have to say Sarah Jessica Parker responded to me on Threads and said she was a fan of the show. If we could get her to come on the show, that would be a dream.

ROSETTA When we started the show, we actually had a long list of dream guests. I watched it the other day and we interviewed a lot of them, so I'm very excited about that. I would love to be invited on a ketamine binge with Elon Musk and interview him on ketamine.

What do you like most about working together?

NEWTONE Kevin was really the only person I wanted to do a podcast with. There's something about the way he talks that just resonates with me. Kevin and I see eye to eye on a shocking amount of things. Even though our perspectives are sometimes different on issues, we see the world the same way. So there's a comfort in getting in the studio with him.

ROSETTA That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me.

NEWTONE Ok, don't use any of that.

ROSETTA Casey is a wonderful journalist and a good friend. He is the funniest person I know and has an unusually strong moral compass. I was really struck by how Casey has not abandoned his ethical core in his pursuit of journalistic excellence. He is still guided by his principles. I won't say that's rare, because many journalists are, but I think he is a particularly strong example.

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