At The Register Shaun Nichols writes:
“The tech press has dared to lean away from its core mission of making technology companies more profitable, says tech advocacy house ITIF.”
The ITIF or Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is an industry think-tank. It issued a report looking at “a change of tone in technology reporting” between the 1980s and this decade.
Long story short, it says the media moved from a positive attitude towards the industry to confrontation.
This, according to the ITIF, is because being tough on the industry makes it easier for tech media to turn a profit.
It goes on to talk about the media being ‘biased’ and distorts the public view of technology.
Yes, it’s all stuff and nonsense. There’s a lot to unpack, but here are a couple of ideas to think about.
In the past publishers made money selling advertising to technology companies. They were a great sales conduit. It worked.
The technology industry was the tech media’s most important customer. Rivers of gold poured in.
While there are publishers who publish nice stories in return for advertising dollars, that was never a great business model. Reader are not fooled. They don’t stick around for blatant propaganda.
The advertising money didn’t buy favourable coverage, at least in the better publications. It did foster a favourable attitude towards the industry. The coverage reflected this.
The partnership also meant journalists and publishers spent time in the company of tech industry people. That too is good for creating a positive attitude.
One conclusion of the ITIF report is more advertising would repair media relations.
Readers and journalists
In the old model, advertisers paid for journalism, but journalists serve readers. Few understood this then. They still don’t.
As Nichols says, we’re not industry cheerleaders. We don’t earn cheerleader, public relations or marketing-type salaries.
Our job is to inform readers. If there is more cynicism in technology media (see the next point) then that is what readers want.
Modern reporting tools mean we know what stories rate from the minute they go online. Guess what? Readers are less likely to click on happy-slappy, isn’t everything wonderful darling stories.
In other words, journalists and publishers respond to reader demands.
Don’t shoot the messenger if they now have a darker view of the tech industry. Get your own house in order.
It’s all nonsense anyway
To argue tech media is meaner than it ways, say, thirty years ago is bonkers. The big newspapers and media sites are full of thin press release rewrites. It is common for blatant propaganda to appear as factual news.
Take, for the sake of argument, Computerworld New Zealand. Thirty years ago, even a decade ago, it was breaking news stories. It was quoted in Parliament. Today, it runs nothing that didn’t start life in a public relations office.
That’s not to say all the tech media is soft. It isn’t. But the ratio of soft stories to more hard hitting news is off the scale. You have to wonder if the ITIF is paying attention.