In this third part of our series on truth and trust in content, let’s get down to some nitty gritty and see how stuff is playing out in B2B tech media. In the first two installments on this series I talked about the importance of finding truth in coverage, which requires a multi-faceted approach, not just truth from one perspective. Unfortunately, much of what is happening in media, both in independent publications and in-house publications, is focused only on a single perspective and the financial investment in producing a multi-faceted approach is not welcome. Let's take the gorilla in the room (IBM Tech) as an example.
I’ve written extensively on the changes at UBM Tech this past year and, most recently, some of the blowback I’ve been hearing not only from sponsors but potential sponsors as well. There have been some responses from the UBM Tech team correcting some of the reports, but most of what I’ve written about (as well as plans to expand the program company wide) were confirmed a couple of weeks ago in an interview with UBM Tech mucky-mucks Paul Miller and Adrian Barrick in MediaBriefings.com.
In review, UBM Tech is downsizing is editorial staff, mostly senior people, and turning over the content development to mostly unpaid bloggers from sponsor companies. The content is to be reviewed by less senior editors and the most egregious marketing fluff is to be screened out. Here’s Problem No. 1:
As UBM Tech adds more content to the flow, the already overworked editorial staff has less time to do proper screening, more fluff will get by.
UBM Tech has been pointing to the fact that they STILL have a team of excellent journalists producing content for their publications, demonstrating they highly value those skills. It’s true. Junko Yoshida, Rick Merritt, Patrick Mannion and whoever else might be there (I’ve noticed the EE Times staff list page has been taken down, but you can still see the editors at EDN.com) are still formidable writers. That brings us to Problem No. 2:
See Problem No 1. UBM Tech is requiring their editors to focus more on the news coming out of events, which are funded by sponsors and exhibitors and they are increasing the number of events, increasing the workload on the remaining journalists on the team... which has been causing valuable editors to leave (e.g. Brian Fuller and Alex Wolfe) for corporate jobs ... which has forced UBM Tech to hire journalists without significant experience in B2B Tech.
Now before you get all up in arms to defend UBM Tech or to agree that it’s a horrible organization. Let me point out that they are no different from any other organization.
I was having a discussion with a corporate manager recently who said he valued content production. I asked him if he was paying more or less for content than he was 5 years ago. The answer was less. Then I asked him if he was getting more or less content production than he was 5 years ago. He said more. So I told him that it’s a great thing to say you value a particular skill, but when you require greater production at comparable or less pay, that immediately devalues the skill.
And this is especially true in every media corporation. From tiny to large, the value of content creation is diminishing. People want more, because while content is king these days, they demand the cost to be less. That has a direct effect on the trustworthiness of the content.
This may be good financially in the short term for publications, but it is bad for the long term and it is not good for their audiences in general who are figuring out that content may be growing, but actual information is lacking.
All is not lost, however, because good things are happening and we’ll get into the positive side of this in the next post.