"I was recently confronted with a personal example of the true cost of free stuff," says Farhad Manjoo, our tech columnist and author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. "I moved to a new apartment and tried to do without cable TV. Here's a tip: Over-the-air broadcasts are no match for San Francisco's hills. After battling bad reception for weeks, I finally gave in and called the cable guy."
"It isn't often that you get to expense a swimsuit," says photographer Andrew Rowat, who donned swim trunks to shoot Li Ning CEO Zhang Zhiyong for Fast Company. "The angle that I wanted meant planting myself smack dab in the middle of the pool. We put my $10,000 camera on a flutter board and I gingerly swam out to my tripod, which was anchored down by weights so that it didn't drift away."
Everything she knows about crumb and crust, associate editor Kate Rockwood learned from her fiancée, a passionate baker. For this issue, she turned that love of loaves to Panera Bread. "I devoured cinnamon-crunch bagels and hazelnut cream cheese with the CEO and two café managers," she says. "I haven't been at a table of people so proud of their food or so eager to feed since the last big meal with my future in-laws."
This month's Next opener is adapted from contributing writer Adam L. Penenberg's new book, Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves. The book grew out of his May 2008 cover story on Ning, the purveyor of DIY social networks. Penenberg also penned our July/August cover story on Amazon and December 2007's cover on Apple.
Techie Steve Perlman's bold new project, OnLive, has raised plenty of eyebrows. "But most surprising was when Perlman said he really wants to write screenplays — that he's good at coming up with stories, but not so good at witty dialogue," says journalist Kevin Maney. For two decades, Maney has put his own pen to paper, writing for USA Today and Fortune. His new book is Trade-off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don't.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.