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Reality Check: 12 Questions with SplatF's Dan Frommer

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What do you do as an encore to creating one of the most successful tech sites on the Web? Create another one, of course. Dan Frommer helped create Business Insider - and it predecessor, Silicon Alley Insider - from scratch (BI now reaches 10 million readers a month). So he knows a thing or two about building great sites.

His latest project is SplatF, his own tech news site which he launched in July 2011. SplatF is a SAY Media partner site and Dan is also part of the SAY 100 Technology Channel curated by Pocket-lint's Stuart Miles.

We caught up with Dan about his new venture, what's working, SplatF's all-time most popular posts - and where he was when he heard about Steve Jobs' death.

You were a senior writer at one of the most highly read tech blogs, Business Insider - why did you decide to strike out on your own and build your own media property?

I've always wanted to build sites on my own. After 6 years of writing about the tech and media industries at Business Insider and Forbes, I decided it was time to jump in and start creating.

How's it going so far?

Pretty well! Starting a new site from scratch is a humbling experience, but the quantity and quality of readership has been a pleasant surprise. Last month, over 160,000 people read SplatF, including top executives at some awesome companies.

What surprised you about the transition? And what's been easier or harder than expected?

The hardest part is turning off the computer - there's always more to do.

What's your advice for other publishers and writers thinking about doing this?

It's not for everyone. Online self-publishing is not yet a proven industry. But so far, it looks like it can be viable if you have a following and know how to bring readers to your site. It doesn't happen by itself. You have to be comfortable promoting your work and dealing with a lot of rejection.

What does SplatF do that you won't find in other tech publications? How are you different/unique?

In general, I try to highlight important things about stories that other people aren't. Often that's taking a different view, or offering unique analysis that others don't. Or highlighting an interesting person that most people probably don't know. Sometimes, it's a simple chart that explains a complex problem. The coolest part about self-publishing is trying new things, and doing something a little different every day.

What other independent technology publishers and voices do you admire and why? Who's doing it right?

Probably the best example of this is John Gruber, who writes a site called Daring Fireball - a great mix of short one-liner-type wisecracks and longer, marvelous essays about technology. Most importantly, you can tell that everything about the site is his - there's no other person or business pushing him to do something he's not proud of. I've also learned a lot recently reading Asymco, a tech/business analysis site by a guy named Horace Dediu. It's brilliant.

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What makes a great tech blog?

Trick question! There's no formula. It's about informing and entertaining your readers in a way that makes sense for both of you. That could be long essays with no illustration, or a series of photos with one-word captions, or something entirely different. I use a lot of charts and graphs, which might seem way out of place on another site.

What do you see as the challenges and opportunities of creating an independent technology site right now?

Web hosting is cheap and tools like Twitter make it easier than ever to get the word out about your posts in real-time. But it is a long, slow process to build up a site from scratch. Most people won't be able to quit their day jobs, or will need to find alternate sources of income.

What have been your all-time most popular posts on SplatF so far?

The top 5:

1. A post where I analyze Netflix's (now-reversed) decision to spin off its DVD business as "Qwikster"

2. "If you're disappointed by the iPhone 4S, you're nuts"

3. Analyzing Apple's recent quarter in chart format

4. An essay about how Apple was forcing a worse user-experience on its customers, a very un-Apple-like thing to do

5. My 500-day review of the iPad

Where were you when you heard about Steve Jobs's death? And what do you think it means for Apple?

I was at a party at the New York Stock Exchange with a couple hundred NYC tech luminaries. It was sad and weird but strangely fitting -- everyone was trying to reflect and be respectful. I think it's terribly sad for Apple but shouldn't affect the company's performance in the foreseeable future. Steve built Apple into an incredible company full of very smart people, and they will continue his work.

What do think will be some of the big tech stories and trends for 2012?

Tablets, again. Will anyone challenge the iPad? And, more broadly, as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google compete for dominance, whose feelings will get hurt?

What's on your iPad?

I mostly use my iPad for its Web browser, reading a few airplane-geek message boards before I go to sleep every night. I also use it to watch video, especially while traveling. And right now, I'm reading the Steve Jobs biography in the iBooks app.

Follow Dan on Twitter @splatf

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