About me

How to reach me

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

Work history

2010 – present

I write features on a variety of technology topics, including Internet media and advertising, television, social networks, online payments, manufacturing, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

2010 – present

I started The New Persuaders, a blog on Forbes.com, to write about the collision of advertising and the Internet. I track emerging trends in digital marketing across paid, earned, and owned media, focusing on both startups and established firms such as Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, as well as technology companies such as Apple that are shaking up the media establishment.

2009 – present

I write news and features for various publications such as Forbes and MIT Technology Review and write on my personal blog about the Internet, online media and advertising, startups and entrepreneurship, innovation, the technology economy, management, and other topics.

2002 – 2009

* I led BusinessWeek‘s San Francisco bureau, directly managing three people and collaborating with three others who worked on BusinessWeek Online and the magazine’s investigative group. In this role, I helped ensure that bureau members got the resources they needed, made sure they focused on stories that readers and editors wanted, and served as liaison with New York editors and other correspondents.

* I wrote feature and news stories for the magazine on a variety of technology- and innovation-related topics, including the Internet, Google, Yahoo,  Facebook, Amazon.com, eBay, Web startups, entrepreneurship, technology policy, and Silicon Valley. I specialized in in-depth analytical pieces, stories that identify new trends and emerging concepts before they’re widely known, and richly reported profiles of corporations and people.

* I contributed news stories and features to BusinessWeek Online and regularly posted on the Tech Beat blog, one of the earliest blogs by a major publication; edited stories and served as first reader on bureau members’ stories as needed; and helped keep BusinessWeek on the cutting edge of new technologies and publishing formats such as blogs and Twitter.

1988 – 2002

* I wrote features, news stories, and commentaries on a wide variety of topics, including semiconductors, computers, science, retail, people, and politics, as well as a monthly column on technology-related developments. Covered Intel, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon.com, eBay, and other companies as regular beats.

WRITER, EDITOR, Peninsula Times-Tribune
1983 – 1988

* I wrote and edited features, news stories, and a small-business column for a regional newspaper owned by Tribune Co. and edited the business section.


Bachelor’s, journalism
San Jose State University

* Wrote for university magazines.
* Co-founded weekly campus-community newspaper; wrote, edited, and created the graphic design.

Selected stories

* 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.

* Deep Learning: An emerging branch of artificial intelligence is producing remarkable breakthroughs in image and speech recognition. This lead feature for Technology Review‘s annual list of 10 breakthrough technologies in the May/June 2013 issue offered a detailed explanation of how it works in new products such as Google’s voice search and what’s coming next from companies such as Google that are vacuuming up research talent.

* 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.