Welcome, welcome, to day four of our no-punches-pulled gripe-a-thon, in which Doug, Graeme, Jared, Keith and I unfurl lists of longstanding disappointments, bellyaches and dependably tangential grievances (and hey, you may even find a few in the bunch tech-related). Let’s get this party started!
Public Relations: “We’ll Take One Post with a Side of Positive Spin on That, Please.”
Thank you, yes, I’ve heard about your “critically acclaimed,” “widely hailed,” “mind-blowing” new product, person-representing-company-X, but no thank you, the “chances we’d be able to post about that” are exactly zero. That’s not what we do here. This is Techland, not PR Newswire (or your company’s Facebook page). We’re not an extension of your company’s marketing department. We realize you get paid on the basis of (positive) coverage, but that’s not our problem. Our job’s to pass along unvarnished information about technology, ideally with a dash of original insight and/or analysis, not put bread on your table.
Some of you reading may be wondering what I’m talking about, and while this is inside baseball, it’s worth paying attention: I mean the relentless, ingratiating, labyrinthine public relations industry–more pervasive and intertwined with the “news” industry today than at any point in the history of the biz–and the daily pitch-onslaught it sometimes seems we spend half our day dodging. For the record, the question rightly suspicious readers ought to be asking isn’t whether the person who wrote the thing they’re perusing is on the take (chances are they’re not, because that’d be too obvious) but whether the story’s just a lazy press release scrape or paraphrase, in which case you’re reading the equivalent of a propaganda pamphlet.
“Experts” Available for “Expert Commentary”
While true experts do exist in this industry, they’re far and few between. Most of what you read from “analysts” at “strategic firms” you could figure out yourself–no one knows what startup X or CEO Y’s really planning, after all, so they fill space with obvious quotes and vague not-really-predictions. So to all you shopping around people to speak about Steve Jobs or the Sony PlayStation Network hack debacle or the (failed) AT&T-T-Mobile merger: We’re supposed to know what’s going on and why as well as anyone else. We don’t outsource just because someone’s written an e-book, or works for a consulting firm with “strategic” in its moniker, or who’s appeared a couple times on a show like Fox News. We do consult actual experts, no question about it, but see my last point about PR pitching–our job isn’t to promote so-and-so’s agenda, endowed chair, or latest book–then let us be the judge of what’s what (and take our lumps, like anyone else, where we judge poorly).
Craiglist’s Dirty Rotten Liars
What’s that johndoe1425loveslove? You want to pay me by check, don’t have question one about my $2,000-plus digital piano you’ve never seen or tested, and you can’t meet me in person because you’re on business traveling, so you’ll have your “shipper” pick my product up, all-expenses-paid? It’s not that you can’t write in complete sentences and that you don’t care much about typos (or, you know, general elisions) when you write, it’s the relentless way you (and your ilk) pop up, usually hours after I’ve posted or renewed my ad, then try to guilt me into selling under the above terms because really, it’s not me, but you “who should be paranoid,” since you’re sending the check and all (click here, see bullet point three). How about an X-Prize for an invention that, with the push of a button, back-traces these would-be swindlers, conjures a holographic trout, then slaps them on the face with it?