A few weeks ago I started a discussion on Facebook on what goes into the creation of good content and that turned into the first in a series that ensued from the discussion. Don Tuite of Electronic Design magazine asked an interesting question regarding what makes a piece of content "truthy," an adjective created by comedian Steven Colbert. that question is a perfect example of what is wrong with content development today: the effort to make something seem true rather than try to make sure it is actually true.
Tom Foremski wrote an interesting piece over on ZDNet on press-imposed censorship that fits in well as an example of what hampers the creation of good content. Foremski talks about the habit of B2B journalists to continually go to the well of what they consider "reliable" sources that invariably consist of the top players in a given industry.
I've pointed out it past posts that every journalist has subjective filters when it comes to covering news. A given subject can have as many as half a dozen legitimate sources for the news. The journalist goes through the list of previous sources for the topic for the first round, consisting of PR and executives. If need be a second round consisting of spokespeople from the top one or two players in the market will be contacted. Rarely is there a second round where the journalist contacts low-level players. That, however, may be exactly where the real information is.
During my early days as a journalist I learned that the best stories usually came from the people no one notices: A local Buddhist priest who turns out to be a Hiroshima survivor; the elderly man who raise parakeets and donates them to shut ins for company; the technologist who develops a new processor technology, once discarded by the industry, that actually resolves many of the problems with current processors. These were all hidden stories that had been around for years until I stumbled across them. That's what I was always taught was real news: something out of the ordinary.
Journalists today are under paid and over worked. They need to find ways to create as much content as they can with shrinking resources. And the major players in the market are more than willing to make sure the unusual never makes the light of day by giving the harried reporters and editors "special access" to the corridors of power. Those sources are dedicated to the concept of "truthiness."
Good content is not "truthy." It is true. More often than not it has to come from the unusual suspects. That's why at New Tech Press we impose a subjective filter of excluding the top players as often as possible (e.g. in our Semicon coverage we chose interviews with KLA Tencor, current number 4, as the lead interview...having been unable to get responses from Varian and Advantest).
Can traditional journalists ignore the top players? Probably not. There is too much pressure from publication management to keep the large potential advertisers happy and no pressure whatsoever from the lower-level companies who invest nothing in media buys. But the lower-level companies can make an effort to use social media strategies to share good content (not necessarily about them) and help journalists get a broader view.