Tag Archives: Technology coverage

Bobo

Former NYTimes apps columnist creates an app

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Bob Tedeschi, the former app columnist for The New York Times, has helped create “Bobo Explores Light,” an award-winning best-selling iPad application, reports Claire Atkinson of the New York Post.

He moved off the column after alerting his editors about the app, Atkinson writes.

Atkinson writes, “‘Bobo,’ created with two executives at Game Collage, has hit No. 1 in 12 countries in both the education and book categories.

“Costing $4.99, ‘Bobo,’ which launched Sept. 15, 2011, is currently the No. 72 top-grossing iPad app, according to AppData, and is the first children’s educational app to make the App Hall of Fame.

“While even some developers have no idea how many downloads are needed to reach the top of Apple’s charts, the more popular free apps need at least 100,000, according to executives at Flurry, a mobile app measurement firm.

“Ironically, Tedeschi’s app creation was first discussed with a Times editor as a possible story that would address how hard it was to make a living developing apps.

“The story assignment was eventually dropped — but Tedeschi continued pursuing the idea.”

Read more here. Tedeschi is now a gardening columnist for the paper.

integrity2

When business trumps biz journalism integrity

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Rem Rieder, the editor of American Journalism Review, writes for USA Today about why the integrity of CNET’s technology journalists has been brought into question because of parent company CBS Corp.’s intervention in its awards.

Rieder writes, “Turrentine and her staff had been placed in a terrible situation by the CBS honchos. Not only was their judgment rejected for reasons having nothing to do with the merits of their journalism. They weren’t even allowed to give an honest account of what had taken place.

“As Sandoval tweeted as he walked away from the company, the fact that ‘CNET wasn’t honest about what occurred regarding Dish is unacceptable to me. We are supposed to be truth tellers.’ He added, ‘I believe CNET’s leaders are also honest but used poor judgement [sic].’

“Compounding the damage, CBS felt compelled to issue this self-serving statement Monday:’”CBS has nothing but the highest regard for the editors and writers at CNET, and has managed that business with respect as part of its CBS Interactive division since it was acquired in 2008. This has been an isolated and unique incident in which a product that has been challenged as illegal, was removed from consideration for an award. The product in question is not only the subject of a lawsuit between Dish and CBS, but between Dish and nearly every other major media company as well. CBS has been consistent on this situation from the beginning, and, in terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will. We look forward to the site building on its reputation of good journalism in the years to come.’

“That’s reassuring, guys. In other words, we have the highest regard for journalistic independence, except when it’s bad for business.  Or, give us a break. We only misbehaved once.”

Read more here.

ethics_header

What does CNET scandal mean for tech press?

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Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic’s Wire writes about what the CNET ethics scandal last week means for technology news coverage in the wake of a CNET editor’s less-than-convincing story about her involvement.

Greenfield writes, “Turrentine went on to say that if she had to face this ‘dilemma’ again, she would not quit. Meaning, if this turns into more than a one-time incident, she wouldn’t have a problem bending to CBS again?

“CBS’s statement to The Verge hasn’t calmed the critics, either. ‘In terms of covering actual news, CNET maintains 100% editorial independence, and always will. We look forward to the site building on its reputation of good journalism in the years to come,’ reads the CBS reply. Define ’100 percent’ and ‘editorial independence,’ please.

“While CNET struggles to emerge from this mess, the situation appears to be threatening the entire ecosystem of the technology press, which has a history of reinventing its standards on bias in product reviews. A number of gadget and tech-news sites fall under larger corporate umbrellas: AOL owns Engadget; NewsCorp owns The Wall Street Journal and its influential tech coverage; BuzzFeed FWD has to answer to its investors, who put money in all sorts of tech ventures; IAC invests in companies like Aereo but owns The Daily Beast. Turns out this wasn’t just a family feud — the CNET and CBS scandal at CES could set a precedent for years to come.”

Read more here.

Lindsey Turrentine

CNET editor on why she’s not quitting

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Lindsey Turrentine, the editor of CNET Reviews, writes about why she is not quitting the tech news site in the wake of it being forced by parent CBS Corp. to withdraw an award from The Dish because of litigation between the two companies.

Turrentine writes, “We were in an impossible situation as journalists. The conflict of interest was real — a legal case can impact the bottom line of our company and introduce the possibility of bias — but the circumstances demanded more transparency and not hurried policy.

“I could have quit right then. Maybe I should have. I decided that the best thing for my team was to get through the day as best we could and to fight the fight from the other side. Every single member of the CNET Reviews team is a dedicated, ethical, passionate technology critic. If I abandoned them now, I would be abandoning the ship.

“CNET Senior Vice President and General Manager Mark Larkin and I reacted by gathering our team and telling them the only thing we were allowed to say, which was and is the truth as far as I know: That because of active litigation between CBS and Dish, we had to disqualify Dish and that the only fair thing to do in this new reality was to revote and inform Dish about what had happened. That is what we did.

“If I had to face this dilemma again, I would not quit. I stand by my team and the years of work they have put into making CNET what it is. But I wish I could have overridden the decision not to reveal that Dish had won the vote in the trailer. For that I apologize to my staff and to CNET readers.

“The one thing I want to clearly communicate to my team and to everyone at CNET and beyond is this: CNET does excellent work. Its family of writers is unbiased, focused, bright, and true. CNET will continue to do excellent good work. Of that I am certain. Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again.”

Read more here.

CNET

A tech journalist’s worst nightmare

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John Herman of BuzzFeed.com writes about how tech news site CNET dropped a Dish Network product from consideration of an award because its parent, CBS, is currently in litigation with Dish.

Herman writes, “This is a constant fear for many tech writers — their jobs, more than many other in media, require them to cover companies they either work for, or which their employers interact with. Nearly every tech publication has conflicts of interest to wrestle with — including BuzzFeed, a startup which shares investors with many other tech and media companies. Upon news of our latest funding round, a BuzzFeed politics reporter asked me if it felt strange to cover tech at what many consider a tech company. The answer, of course, is a ‘yes — but.’ (For the record: FWD has never been asked to cover, or not cover, any of these companies).

“While some publications deal with conflicts of interest head on — TechCrunch openly acknowledges them, for example, while the New York Times charges its media writers with writing about themselves — most are rarely confronted with a scenario like this, and certainly not in public.

“As a tech reporter, CES has an uncanny knack for not making you feel very good about your job. It’s a noisy place with confoundingly little valuable information to be had; it will unfailingly exacerbate any anxieties you have about your role in the way products are promoted and sold. It can make you feel, in short, like a slightly mutated PR person, allowed to choose his clients and speak more freely but still performing essentially the same role: making money for tech companies.

“This confirms that fear, at least for CNET’s reporters — that there is a profound difference in product journalism and actual journalism, to the point that the former might not even be in the same genus as the latter. Good service writing, unglamorous as it may be, demands integrity too.”

Read more here.

tech-journalism

Why all journalism is tech journalism now

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Jon Evans of TechCrunch writes about how all journalism is now tech journalism in some form or another.

Evans writes, “The problem is that everything is tech now. Software is eating the world – a world increasingly festooned with new hardware. War, art, politics, romance, sports, business — these are all tech topics now. Every human activity is increasingly inextricably intertwined with technology. And if you’re going to write about new technology, you have to write about the sociopolitical implications of that technology or else, well, you’re neither a good nor an interesting writer.

“At the same time, though, people don’t generally come to TechCrunch to read about war, art, politics, romance, or sports. (Though I think they do come to read about business.) That’s fine, and fair enough. If I ever write anything here that would still make sense if you take all the references to new technology out of it, then I’ve probably strayed outside my remit; that seems like a reasonable rule of thumb. So we’re done here. Right?

“Not quite. There’s something more interesting and provocative going on here.

“If the range of tech journalism has extended to pretty much the full range of human activities, then, at the same time, all journalism is becoming tech journalism. We’re not there yet, of course; but we’re getting there. That’s just a simple corollary of software-eating-the-world and one-smartphone-per-person. One day in the within-our-collective-lifetimes future, all stories will be tech stories to some extent.”

Read more here.

Silicon-Ep-Main

PBS set to launch “Silicon Valley” show

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Colleen Taylor of TechCrunch.com reports that PBS has made a documentary called “Silicon Valley” that details the rise of the tech industry in California.

Taylor writes, “The PBS history series American Experience has made a new documentaryfocused on what fueled the fire for Silicon Valley and the modern tech industry’s earliest days — the founding of Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 by the then 29-year-old Robert Noyce, an icon in Silicon Valley who a young Steve Jobs later counted as a key mentor.

“We’ll have to wait until February 19th to see the whole thing, which seems really far away but will actually be here before we know it (can you believe it’s already late December, time flies, I’ll be 90 before I know it, etc.)

“But in the meantime, embedded above is a short trailer, and below is the plot synopsis the show’s publicity arm is sending around. It all looks pretty fascinating, and should be a great way for us relatively wet behind the ears Silicon Valley newbies to learn the real history of the early industry mavericks who paved the way to today.

‘In 1957, before Apple and Google, before stock-option millionaires and billionaire venture capitalists, a group of eight brilliant young scientists defected from the Shockley Semiconductor Company — the first company to work in the field of silicon semiconductors — in order to start their own transistor company. The “Traitorous Eight,” as they were dubbed, created Fairchild Semiconductor, a company whose radical innovations helped make the United States a leader in both space exploration and the personal computer revolution, transforming the way the world works, plays and communicates. Their leader was 29-year-old Robert Noyce, a physicist with a brilliant mind and the affability of a born salesman. Over the next decade, Noyce ran the new company and co-invented the integrated circuit, which would become an essential component of modern electronics including computers, motor vehicles, cell phones, and household appliances.”

Read more here.

Kara Swisher

All things disclosure

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If you’re familiar with coverage of the technology beat, you’re undoubtedly familiar with All Things D run by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

What you might not be as familiar with is their disclosure statements, Swisher’s in particular.  Mossberg’s statement can be found here.

In her statement, Swisher discloses the following information:

  • Swisher’s spouse, Meghan Smith has been an executive at industry giant Google since 2003 and derives a substantial amount of her income from Google shares and options.  Swisher states she does not make decisions related to these positions nor does she own or have future rights to own or control any of them;
  • Swisher pledges she will not discuss anything with her spouse prior to publication and will not report any information she gleans from her spouse unless it can be attributed by name to her in that particular instance;
  • Although she does intend to break news on All Things D she will make, “subjective comments on the business and strategies of technology companies and issues”;
  • While Dow Jones is the owner of All Things D, Swisher and Mossberg have established an LLC whose purpose is to manage payments to  independent contractors, including herself;
  • Swisher does not coordinate her work with the advertising sales staff, nor does she solicit or sell ads for the newspaper, web site or sponsorships for the All Things D conference;
  • While she does make a number of unpaid speeches each year, if she accepts a speaking fee it will not be from a company she covers.

Swisher acknowledges her disclosure is “more than most of you want to know,”  but if you’re an end user like me you do want to know as much as you can about writers’ conflicts in order to gauge the credibility of their reporting or analysis.

So I am a bit dismayed that concerted disclosures from prominent voices such as Swisher and Mossberg continue to be conspicuously absent from their counterparts in the business and financial press, where conflicts and cynicism are at least as prevalent if not greater.

Ed O’Farrell is an avid reader of business journalism. He is also worked in b2b business news publishing, having been employed by Institutional Investor, the Bond Buyer, and Money-Media in various sales and marketing capacities.

The Verge

The success of the Verge tech news site

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Jeff John Roberts of PaidContent.org writes about The Verge, a tech news site that launched a year ago.

Roberts writes, “Parent company Vox Media made an expensive bet on brand-name writers and bespoke publishing tools.

“In the month of October, comScore reports The Verge racked up 3.1 million unique U.S. visitors. It’s an impressive start but still a ways behind longtime incumbents like Gawker Media’s Gizmodo, which had 6.5 million uniques. The number for AOL’s Engadget, which Vox raided to create its editorial team, was 6.3 millon.

“The Verge is ‘very profitable’ and has sold out its advertising inventory for months, according to Chief Content Officer Marty Moe, who credits a ‘super premium experience’ for attracting large brands like Ford, BMW and Microsoft. The Verge is one of three sites where Vox Media has applied its strategy of choosing a news vertical and then hitting it hard with sizeable staffs of specialist writers and elaborate publishing tools. The company’s other properties are sports site SB Nation and newly launched video game site Polygon.”

Read more here.

Churning

Churn and tech journalism

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John Biggs of TechCrunch has a great read about how churning out content is affecting tech journalism.

Bigss writes, “The problem comes when that churn, that endless wave of news, crests over our abilities to manage and vet. There is a call, for example, to slow down when it comes to coverage. You don’t care that Angry Birds Star Wars is out the moment it’s released. Why not just sit on that news for a few days, really give it a good dry rub? Why not give old Mighty Eagle a call, get him on camera. Really make an event out of it. We don’t do that because that’s even worse than pasting in a press release. There is a very large percentage of people for whom the words “Hey, Angry Birds Star Wars is out. You can get it here” is far superior to a 1,000-word article on how they got birds to look like Han Solo. We’re not any company’s marketing organ, no matter how many times we post about Apple. Those who want more can always find more. Always. So slowing down isn’t the answer.

“Could we post less? Sure. I’d love it if we did. But we have a team of people who want to write. They want to get stuff up. They revel in breaking news even if that news doesn’t seem important to you, specifically. It’s like asking a gazelle to take the bus. So that’s out.

“The answer, as far as I see it, is simple: avoid PR and PR newswires and keep the conversation going naturally. If you’re a founder, either hire a marketing manager internally or do it yourself. If you made something cool, tell us directly. At this point in the game gathering a list of friendly journalists is as easy as visiting 100 or so websites. It didn’t used to be that way. To get access to a newspaper you had to send a letter to an editor that would, inevitably, end up in the trash. Now you can spam a bunch of writers who are hungry to feed that maw.”

Read more here.