I've said repeatedly that the tech press is just a wrapper for the gadgets, to sell them better. And doesn't that sound like something a technocommunist might say, somebody who is just about to use the phrase "neoliberal" and "rent-seeking" in the next sentence?
But no, it's just a statement of what is the case. And I don't mind if the tech press exists merely to sell gadgets. The tech web sites are businesses. Businesses can do what they want and seek value and sell things as they wish. It's still a free country with a free market. If they seem craven then journalistically and don't tell the truth about the gadgets, okay, but then that's what a few critical blogs and maverick sites are for...if they exist...and I don't know if they exist any more. Some of the writers at TechCrunch like Alexia Tsotsis will strike a pose and get all critical of their industry now and then and worry about poor people -- but it probably just helps sell the comfort-inducing gadgets better...
I think Loren Feldman got it right when he said that when AOL bought TechCrunch, it began to be impossible to do independent blogging on tech anymore, i.e. it was a debilitating example. Of course he disproves this himself with his blog, but I take the point. TC was more independent in its reporting when it was just Arrington running it.
And I don't have to try hard to prove this when you get something like "Googlicious" (couldn't you just barf at the name!) coming to CNET to be about "all things Google" run by a guy who seems like a relative of Torley in Second Life -- the same kind of artificial pumped up enthusiasm about tech.
To be sure, "Apple Byte," the show that existed before "Googlicious" (barf) is going to remain in place. Yuck! Of course, it probably will get views because people want to read about new gadgets and they don't care if it is fluff.
So then I got to thinking. How is Chris going to keep The New Republic alive? What ads can he wrap around THAT stuff -- the progressive, pro-Obama stuff that comes out of TNR?
And the answer is -- and this is funny -- old companies like Northrop Grumman which are stalwarts of the military industrial complex (they are a leading manufacturer of drones) and of course even involved in cybersecurity these days. So it's kinda funny to see their add opposite some article loving up Obama or praising Snowden. I don't recall Grumman being there before, maybe it was, or maybe the new management landed it. It's funny.
Which got me to thinking about something Pierre Omidyar was quoted as saying today by Carr:
Advertisers don’t want to put their ads next to the investigative story; it’s extremely difficult to do that
Hmm. Well, except you could argue Grumman has done that, in a way Although frankly, I don't recall an investigative story in TNR lately, of the kind they did on Gov. Perry or Mitt Romney, which were so very thorough -- oh, and at the end of the day, weren't so much investigative as they were about oppo research to help Obama.
I couldn't help thinking of what Marshall McLuhan taught: "The bad news of the news helps sell the good news of the ads."
So the Vietnam War's bad news helps sell cigarettes or perfume or whiskey, which were the things that tended to be more advertised in magazines and newspapers in those days.
It's funny, TNR hasn't done a lot on Snowden. Certainly nothing first hand. I think because on the whole, Silicon Valley as an institution didn't really care for Snowden hugely, as it hurt their social media platforms' reputation and the their cloud business overseas (supposedly, although this is so far all speculation and not data) -- as foreigners were supposedly concerned about US-based services on servers the NSA could get at.
I'm sure McLuhan meant to say something very penetrating and anti-establishment with his witty saying, which I remember hearing him say in person (because I went to his classes at St. Michael's in the 1970s). But I have to say, I don't find it some earth-shattering horrible neo-liberal bad thing. People like contrasts, and a little vinegar to go with their chips, or something.... Doesn't the product seem sweeter if it is next to bad news?
Except, food and beverage products aren't the things you see on those pages anymore. You see Northrop Grumman. Or you see car insurance .
You know, I clicked all the way through on that Northrop Grumman ad on TNR which was pretty snazzy and had one of those flashy films with smart talking heads. Except...they mouthed inanities as they always do on these ads. You see the same kind of ads for companies like this on CNET or TechCrunch.
I'm trying to think what the purpose of an ad like that is. Most of the intellectual readers of TNR are not in purchasing departments or in a position to requisition cybersecurity services. Well, maybe some in the government are, and maybe they hope to reach those people. Or maybe they just do it as a public image thing. Before, if someone said, "What do you know about Northrop Grumman?" I would have said, "Um, do they make airplanes or something?" Now I know they do cybersecurity -- and I hope, in such a way to keep out the next Edward Snowden.