For years I resisted attending the Tech Leaders conference, formerly Kickstart, as I felt a bit of an imposter being invited to attend as a journalist. As a consequence I missed the peak days of the event.
In the ‘good old days’ dozens of journalists, most in the employ of profitable media companies, would fly to a Queensland resort to wine, dine and debauch themselves as PR agencies who were picking up the tab would try to introduce their clients and pitch to the group of hungover scribes.
Funding these events was relatively straightforward, public relations agencies and their clients were happy to pay substantial sums for access to journalists. In the golden days of technology journalism, large IT supplements were full of lucrative advertising for jobs and products.
That river of advertising gold has long dried up and in the technology industry that shift has been exacerbated by the collapse in IT industry margins which has further hurt advertising budgets.
As the industry has faded so too have the numbers of media professionals, many journalists have either moved into PR roles themselves or are now desperate freelancers.
The industry shift to freelancers has been problematic for the organisers as the remaining staff journalists are chronically time poor so can’t lightly take a day away from the desk and the independent reporters don’t offer direct access into trade journals and general news outlets.
Events like Tech Leaders are giving the PR industry a glimpse of the journalist free media landscape of the near future where the traditional pitching to outlets in the hope of being published is effectively obsolete. Looking at the numbers at Tech Leaders, it’s clear that world is not far off.
The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.
In an age where there is an almost unlimited supply of information and commentary, journalists and PR people have to find a new way to convince the market they add value.