Nov 282012

One of the sad truths of the tech media is just how much news is really regurgitated media release, this is part of a bigger problem where online channels demand that sites deliver content and are ‘first’ to get announcements online.

Yesterday’s Google-ICOA scandal where a forged media release was regurgitated world wide across the tech and general media illustrates the weaknesses in the latter imperative when a fake announcement was released through PR Wire, a news release service.

To exacerbate the problem, the forgers used PR Wire’s Premium service which guarantees the release is not only distributed across services like Bloomberg and Reuters but also passed on to Associated Press which in turn distributes the story to hundreds of media outlets world wide.

Which is exactly what happened; here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s report ripped straight from the wire. A quick Google search on a phrase in the AP report shows 1,259 other outlets also spat out the same Associated Press story.

Nobody at PR Wire, Associated Press or at any of the 1260 outlets chose to call Google or ICOA to confirm the story was true. Neither did anyone at the various tech blogs who chose to rewrite the PR Wire release as ‘news’.

Around the world at mainstream newspapers, tech blogs and online news services writers are under massive pressure to feed the content beast which is why these mistakes are inevitable.

The content beast also means a lot of rubbish gets published, just to keep new material churning across the home page. A good example is in yesterday’s Gizmodo article on how to save money on soda machine gas refills.

While the writer and editors thought this tosh – which was probably inspired from a media release – was worth posting, readers quickly pointed out that using industrial gas for food uses is dangerous and the economics dubious.

A classic example of the audience being smarter than the writer; something becoming increasingly common as poor quality garbage is posted under provocative, attention grabbing headlines.

The question is whether the content beast is worth feeding, readers don’t care and increasingly we’re all struggling to reduce the noise and clutter in our inboxes and social media channels.

Reducing the noise is becoming most internet users priority and this means publications whose value is dubious will end up being winnowed out or, even worse, being ignored.

In the market where users are reducing clutter it’s only the useful, relevant, trusted and genuinely informative sources that will survive.

For Associated Press, this means they are going to have to terminate their relationship with PR Wire if they are going to remain useful and trusted.

AP’s clients are going to have to add more value than just spitting out whatever turns up on the wire as the SMH and 1,200 other sites did with the Google story.

The tech blogs are most challenged of all. Increasingly they have little to offer except a race to the bottom in regurgitating spin and third rate articles.

It’s possible that the Google scandal is good for the tech media, it’s going to force the sites with a future to do smarter, better writing and rely less on PR releases or shouting “first” when they get a story.

The ones who don’t are history and no-one will miss them.

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