Deez Interviews: Kara Swisher on pandemic-era interview dynamics + her newest podcast

This week’s interview is with the one and only Kara Swisher. (If you don’t know, now you know).  We talked about what she’s been up to over the past few months; “Sway,” the new interview show she’s hosting with New York Times Opinion; and finding the right medium for your message. Enjoy!

I read in the interview for The Cut you did last year that you’re used to keeping your own schedule and working from anywhere. So I’m very curious how the past few months have been for you. Has the pandemic changed the way you work at all?

I am the original social distancer, having worked from home for decades. I have long abandoned the office and really hate being in one since nothing ever happens there, in my long experience, except newsroom intrigue. I have been staying in DC since my kids are here, and I was already going between there and SF, where I still have a house too. But I now live in DC. I really miss California, but it is easier and safer to be here for now. 

Since I always worked remotely, it is not a lot different, except more people are home now. That’s made it different, but it also means more time with family. Perhaps one of the few silver linings of the pandemic.

Your new podcast, “Sway,” launched this week, and I’m curious about what interested you in bringing the classic ~Kara Swisher grilling power players~ format to the NYT.

Do you feel like you have to code-switch at all when you’re addressing the Times audience versus say, New York Mag people with Pivot or the old Recode crowd?

I hope not. I’m aware that I don’t want to change my style — intelligent loudmouth and persistent irritant with a side of humor — at the Times. So far I haven’t with the column since I started two years ago, and they welcome my voice. 

There’s no question that I cut loose on “Pivot” with Scott Galloway more. We definitely curse 100 percent more than I will on the Times podcast. But they hired me to be me, so I am going to be me.

Has the phone/Zoom changed the interviewing dynamic for you? 

You know, I was really worried that it would be awful remotely since I have done nearly all of my 539 Recode Decode interviews in person. I am definitely an in-person, in-your-face type. I like to establish analog rapport. Plus the chit-chatting ahead of the interview is always useful. 

That said, the interviews over Squadcast have been great and surprisingly intimate. People pay attention and lean in and are quickly getting used to the medium. It creates a weird pandemic bond, and you see into their homes, which is kind of cool.

Sway will be your third major audio project, after “Recode Decode” and “Pivot;” would you say that podcasting is your preferred medium now?

I love podcasting and have a million more ideas. I think I have always done interviews in public — first All Things Digital and then The Code Conference — for 18 years now, so podcasting is not unlike that. I do like the live journalism aspect of it, and after several thousand interviews, you get kind of good. I saw the podcasting medium earlier than most — much like I did the blogging space online — and I will say it has reinvigorated me. 

That said, people were surprised when it was announced I was doing a column with the Times and wondered if I was being retro. That’s the wrong way of looking at it. You use whatever medium works to get your content out there. I am multifaceted when it comes to media, but not in the careless way the word suggests. I think we need to reach audiences where they are and be willing to morph and change for them. It keeps you creative too.

And finally, with this election cycle nearly (nearly!!!) finished, I’m wondering if you’ve given more thought to running for office one day? 

The mayor bid is out since SF elected a great one since. Also, I had another kid at my advanced age and might have another. So that takes attention and time too. But I miss SF and care a great deal for my adopted city. My prediction: when I am 90 I might run.

Don’t forget to follow @karaswisher on Twitter, and give her latest interview with Gavin Newsom on “Sway” a listen. 

Deez Links is a dailyish newsletter written by delia cai