Posts Tagged ‘media’

The world of tech journalism seems to divide neatly into two genres: in-depth technical reviews and superficial pieces on an area/technology/platform. I enjoy the former, perhaps due to my preference for reading something aimed at a select club rather than the hoi polloi.

The latter, on the other hand, is almost always an attempt to spin a narrative via tortured analogy. We wrote in the past about what appears to be an overwhelming human need to organize facts into narrative. For tech journalists, it has be a specific narrative:. lean, smart entrant vs previously successful but now bumbling incumbent. We have 3 complaints about this:

Firstly this leads to a repetitive sequence of articles. In the mobile industry, for example, something to the tune of “Will X destroy Y?,” with (X,Y) =(RIM, Nokia), (Apple, RIM), (Android, Apple), (Windows Phone 7, Android) in that order in the previous few years.

Secondly, anything that doesn’t fit this template is systematically ignored. For example, Nokia and RIM have been thoroughly ignored for the past year as the Apple v Android rivalry took centerstage in the mobile world.*

Finally, and most importantly, this isn’t a zero sum game. There are winners and losers, yes. However, contrary to the what the narrative would have you believe, the losers are still pretty well off. For e.g. Yahoo still generates upwards a billion dollars in annual profits. They’re probably not getting to two billion anytime soon- but also probably not plummeting to zero.** And for all the hype (and site visits), Facebook still purportedly makes less than twice that in annual revenues.

So calm down everyone and take a deep breath. Check out the landscape, all the new technology and its applications. Secretly enjoy the Jobs v Gundotra sniping. Just be sure is that if tech companies spent all their time obsessing about competition like the journalists who cover them, rather than focusing on technology, our world would be more Flintstones than Jetsons.

*The RIM/Nokia-baiters would argue this is because they haven’t done anything worth covering, but the Nx/Blackberry Whatever are probably more interesting than whether AT&T Iphone cases fit the Verizon Iphone.

** Carol Bartz’s rather entertaining press conferences notwithstanding.


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Content Free Statements

Human beings, this blog’s third favorite subject of discussion (after markets and technology) are a curious species. Gifted with speech, we choose to spend much of our time speaking putting together words without any real content. I was myself recently pulled up by a friend for responding to a claim he made by saying “I potentially agree.” The English are famous for spending much time discussing the weather at the start of a conversation. A website I recently discovered, Twitter, takes this business of putting together words without any content, to an art form. (A notable exception appears to be my PhD advisor, who seems to be incapable of talking in anything but perfect, complete sentences.)

That said, there are few examples of botched communication that stand out as badly as LeBron James. In a misguided effort to top “The Decision”, he said recent interview:

“I’ve seen a couple of my teammates get technicals for, I’m not going to say nothing,” James said, “but really nothing.”
“That’s $2,000 for a technical these days, man. It’s not really about the money, but it is.”

I guess those weren’t linguistic skills he was taking to Miami. (Politicians and economists are excluded from consideration- communication is not exactly what they’re hoping to achieve)

(Late Addendum- Never to be outdone, the class of the 5’8” WR field, Wes Welker offered this press conference yesterday. HT: Shayan)



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Telling It Like It Is

Its never a good idea to go too long on a blog without some good, old-fashioned, over the top name calling. This seems as good a time as any to start (or at any rate to link to someone else doing it).

The New York Times has been significantly more readable of late thanks to the self imposed sabbatical of their worthy foreign affairs columnist, the eminent Tom Friedman. As a result the fraction of news stories telling us that China has great trains and the solution to the middle east crisis is to send the kids to bed without dinner, seems thankfully lower than normal.

Yet what the Good Lord giveth the Good Lord taketh away and Friedman seems to have re-emerged on NPR. Its a familiar role and a familiar anecdote. In his own words:

First of all, you get there by leaving Beijing South train station, which is this ultramodern flying saucer of a building with 3,200 solar panels on the roof. You get on a bullet train that takes you about half the distance between New York and Washington, D.C. in twenty-nine minutes. You arrive to another beautiful train station. You then go to the Tianjin-Beijing Conference Center, a building so vast and beautifully appointed that if it were in Washington, D.C. it would be a tourist site….

And so I just was doing the math in my head: “Let’s see, China can build a whole convention center in eight and a half months and we can’t repair an escalator with twenty-one steps in six months.” You know, everyone, anyone who flies from Shanghai to LAX Los Angeles airport or JFK knows you’re really flying from The Jetsons to The Flintstones.

One could of course go on at length about the worth of this type of analysis but that would make for rather grim reading. Instead this seems a good time to revisit a couple of the more entertaining book reviews you will come across, both by Matt Taibbi, both destroying Friedman. As with all name calling, Taibbi is unfair, and as with anything reasonably well written and amusing thats something we’ll completely ignore.

On “Hot, Flat and Crowded”:

When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing….

Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? Well, he’ll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.

And on “The World Is Flat”

I think it was about five months ago that Press editor Alex Zaitchik whispered to me in the office hallway that Thomas Friedman had a new book coming out. All he knew about it was the title, but that was enough; he approached me with the chilled demeanor of a British spy who has just discovered that Hitler was secretly buying up the world’s manganese supply. Who knew what it meant but one had to assume the worst”It’s going to be called The Flattening,” he whispered. Then he stood there, eyebrows raised, staring at me, waiting to see the effect of the news when it landed.

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