About me

How to reach me

Email: robert.hof@gmail.com
Phone: (650) 353-7620

Professional experience

2013 – present

* Write features, news stories, and analysis on a wide variety of technology topics, including Internet media and advertising, television, social networks, online payments, manufacturing, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

2011 – present

* Started The New Persuaders blog to chronicle the collision of advertising and the Internet and track emerging trends in media and advertising at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Twitter, startups, and traditional media. The blog has attracted 11.5 million views to date.

WRITER, freelance
2011 – present

* Write stories for several other publications, including The New York Times, Forbes, Advertising Age, Stanford Business magazine, and AdExchanger.

2002 – 2009

* Led BusinessWeek’s San Francisco/Silicon Valley bureau, managing up to eight people in one of the magazine’s most productive bureaus, responsible for dozens of cover and lead news stories.

* Wrote more than 20 cover stories, as well as in-depth analytical pieces, richly reported profiles, and trend spotting stories, on topics such as semiconductors, computers, the Internet, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and technology policy; major companies including Intel, Google, and Amazon; and corporate leaders such as Andy Grove and Jeff Bezos.

* Edited stories, helped organize special issues and sections, and helped keep BusinessWeek on the cutting edge of new technologies and publishing formats such as blogs and Twitter.

1988 – 2002

* Wrote features, news and analysis stories, commentaries, and a monthly column on wide-ranging topics such as semiconductors, computers, science, retail, people, and politics.


Bachelor’s, journalismSan Jose State University

* Co-founded, designed, and edited independent weekly campus-community newspaper.

Selected stories

* Brands Look Far and Wide for a Niche in Virtual Reality: Even in virtual reality, there will be no escape from advertising. This late 2015 advertising column in The New York Times explored how advertisers are grappling with the opportunities and challenges in a new medium about to hit the mass market via VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

* App Ads Are Booming Business for Facebook: Not many people realize how much of the boom in mobile advertising comes from one kind of ad: app install ads, which promote apps such as online games. This early 2015 story for MIT Technology Review magazine revealed not only that they now account for more than half of Facebook’s mobile revenues, but how the rise of smartphones is changing the very nature of online advertising.

* Can Apple Do to Your Wallet What iTunes Did for Music? One of the first deep looks at Apple Pay just after it debuted in October 2014, this Technology Review story revealed that the company’s mobile wallet had much more than its trademark marketing might behind it. But it also noted that it would take years to catch on widely–as we’re seeing today.

* A Chinese Internet Giant Starts to Dream: In my early 2014 story for Technology Review, I focused on Baidu, “China’s Google,” and its newly hired Silicon Valley lab chief, artificial intelligence guru Andrew Ng, as a lens into how Chinese technology companies are beginning to bust out of their cloistered market in hopes of becoming truly global powerhouses.

* Look Out, Television: Google Goes for the Biggest Advertising Prize of All: This early 2014 Forbes magazine feature story laid out Google’s then-little-known plans for capturing a chunk of the $40 billion TV advertising market. I sat in on private meetings with Madison Avenue executives at Google’s Brand Lab in Silicon Valley, dug into the company’s arcane ad technology, and visited YouTube’s new studio in Los Angeles to watch young stars create a new entertainment medium. Today, Google’s strategy is starting to pay off with big spending increases reported at YouTube in mid-2015.

* Deep Learning: Artificial Intelligence Is Finally Getting Smart: In a Technology Review feature from early 2013, I laid out how massive computer power and new thinking derived from brain research is enabling machines to recognize objects and translate speech in real time, providing services such as voice search and facial identification we now take for granted. Today, deep learning is one of the hottest stories in the technology world.

* Apple’s Next Innovation: Many Apple customers and investors alike have long bet on television as Apple’s next big product. In an early 2013 feature in Technology Review, I found that the company has more pieces in place for a move into television than most people realize. But producing a TV set also involves a raft of challenges, making a launch unlikely in the near term. Indeed, a subsequent analyst report concluded that it may not appear until 2014 and, as the story concluded, Apple was more likely to focus on an online TV service, which in early 2015 it was rumored to be working on.

* You Are the Ad: After emerging from a privacy scandal, Facebook is suddenly online advertising’s next great hope. Its goal: turning us all into marketers. This inside look at the social network’s booming advertising business for Technology Review in mid-2011 revealed that Facebook has much more to do before it can fulfill the astonishing expectations of its investors.

* Searching for the Future of Television: Google and the geeks from Silicon Valley aim to revolutionize the 70-year-old TV industry. Conquering the Internet was easy in comparison. The 2011 cover story for Technology Review dove deep into the turbulent world of television to examine the big changes and battles coming as the Internet infiltrates the last great mass medium.

Can Google Stay on Top of the Web?: Through unprecedented access to the company’s top search engineers, my 2009 feature story for BusinessWeek took the deepest dive yet into how Google stays ahead of rivals.

Is Google Too Powerful?: This 2007 cover story looked at Google’s growing dominance of online advertising, anticipating the subsequent backlash against the Internet search company’s power.

* The Power of Us: Mass collaboration on the Internet is shaking up business: This examination of the emerging world of online collaboration, peer production, and social media beat similar stories in the New York Times and other major media and presaged such runaway Web successes as Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and Wikipedia.

* Virtual World, Real Money: The first major media look at the virtual world Second Life, this cover story analyzed how online games not only are becoming real economies but also how they could change the nature of work and business.

* The Quest for the Next Big Thing: After the dot-com bust, I spent months prowling Silicon Valley and beyond to discover and articulate what later indeed proved to be the next big thing even before it had a name, let alone world-beating market leaders: social media such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

* Inside an Internet IPO: My BusinessWeek cover story during the halcyon dot-com era was the most detailed, close-up look yet at the inner workings of tech’s wealth creation machine, told through the personal, poignant and sometimes humorous experiences of one startup’s founders.

* The Sad Saga of Silicon Graphics: A meticulously reported investigation of a tech highflier’s struggles with changing markets and executive turmoil, my cover story presaged by several months the company’s subsequent spiral into irrevocable decline.