More Greatly Exaggerated Death Reports
In the weeks leading up to this year's Consumer Electronics Show, there was no shortage of prognostication about the health of CES itself. Things like: Do faster product cycles and the new media realities make a once-a-year mega show irrelevant? The death watch for CES reminded me of something else that's cropping up more and more online lately: That the influence of the tech blog has crested and is now waning.
That's all kinds of wrong.
I can point to many things that show that the influence of the best top-tier tech blogs is still on the rise, but there's one that's particularly timely (and a bit ironic) because it was so well illustrated by the coverage of CES 2012.
Detractors often say that it's hard for anyone other than super-geeks to get their news from tech blogs because, they say, reading these outlets is like reading from a firehose (to butcher a metaphor). The argument continues that blogs provide nothing more than a constant flow of snarky news bits and offer very little context or analysis.
These people are reading the wrong blogs. To put a finer point on it, they are still reading the outlets that have remained blogs – those that aren't doing much in the way of evolving.
In my observation, a number of large tech blogs – maybe 20-30 of them – have blasted outdated stereotypes into oblivion over the last year or so. In doing so, they are almost certainly giving us a clear look at the news organizations of the future – which, by the way, probably won't be called tech blogs. Comparing the coverage of these top online outlets at CES 2012 to previous years, what I see is a group of journalists who have found ways to keep the firehose of news blasting (it's still valuable to a certain audience who need their news NOW) while at the same time taking time to siphon off calm glasses of analysis that everyone else can sip at regular intervals.
A few examples – taken from many:
- New ways to organize individual blog posts so that news items build on one another to tell a larger story. Two notable examples from this week are the Story Streams rolled out by The Verge (here's their CES “Biggest News” Story StoryStream) and Engadget's Distro (Special CES Edition) but there are many other examples.
- Pairing the news-blasting practice of live-blogging CES press conferences with wrap-up articles posted right after the event that summarize the news worth remembering from that event. These posts (like this one from Silicon Alley Insider) provide context that's next to impossible for bloggers to convey in the heat of a liveblog, when executives are speaking, videos are playing, slides are changing, photos need uploading, and the wireless connections need minding.
- Video and podcasts – often streamed live – that re-cap a day, pull together announcements about competing products in one space, and so on.
- And finally, we've seen some extreme reactions to the volume of news pumped out of CES. One favorite is from Brian Lam, a leading online journalist who chose to write exactly ONE blog post from CES for his new-ish Web site (after spending a number of days in town poking around exhibits). Brian's post got a great deal of attention, in part because of the measure twice, cut once approach he took.
Actually, Brian's post also helps us wrap this piece up. He ends his piece with some advice for tech writers that shows the thoughtfulness that many have assumed is absent from those who cover news online. It's a great example of why we're confident that the leading voices of the tech blogosphere will continue to innovate and refine their trade. Here's Brian:
Another key to being at CES as a writer is to avoid worrying about CES’s terrible signal to noise ratio and instead, do something about it¦ Living a fun life and escaping the news machine will give any reporter the time and perspective to think a bit more about what’s real in all the manufactured news, in a manufactured show, in a manufactured town filled with mirage. If a writer can do that, they can avoid being part of the problem and get the space to think and write at the pace of a human, not at the pace of a robot.