What’s with the Media’s Obsession with the Big 7 and Funding News?
I dreaded the day I learned public relations will be a big part of my job again. It wasn't because I was ineffective at it, but rather because every client expects media coverage among the articles laser-focused on the big 7: Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, and LinkedIn. My fears were confirmed at an annual, sit-down dinner where journalists spoke about story angles they want to hear from PR professionals. "We want to hear unique stories from you," they all said. Yet all five of them kept referencing the same companies for over an hour. Eyes were glazing, tweets were firing:
Question for panel: does any other tech company matter other than goog, FB, appl, twtr? #MP15
— John Earnhardt (@urnhart) December 4, 2014
@urnhart enterprise tech built this valley. Where's the love?!?
— amywall (@amywall) December 4, 2014
What's worse is the inordinate amount of coverage on funding announcements that are flooding our news feeds when journalists do cover companies beyond those big seven. Why is accepting investment money more important than companies who are funding themselves? Where are the tough questions around a startup’s business model, their true differentiators, and plans for future growth? Where are the follow up stories 6 months, a year, or 2 years down the road about the entrepreneurs, their team and the real impact of their work? Why does everyone bring out the pitchforks during a company'sdownfall when they should've been asking the tough questions from the beginning? Across the Pacific, dishonest practices such as inflated numbers have become a problem in China's startup scene. Where's the due diligence?
Tech reporters say they've done away with beats. But if you glance at their site profiles and Twitter bios, the words “covering startups" and “Silicon Valley news” are in there quite often. Many of the media conglomerates and emerging outlets like BuzzFeed have even built news bureaus in San Francisco specifically to break news and cover the most mundane things happening here in the Bay Area. As if innovation only happens in one specific place and time.
In a race to publish first and fast, the editorial I’m seeing now is homogeneous and empty rhetoric — reporting on the same news, at the same time, with no compelling arguments. It’s becoming increasingly harder to discern one story from another; and they rarely compel me into action. Should this come as a surprise if Business Insider, HuffingtonPost, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and The Daily Beast are all within stumbling distance from one another in lower Manhattan?
PR practitioners are not free of fault either. Our brethren have outnumbered journalists for the past couple of years; and we’re all pressured to garner coverage for our clients. If we as an industry can provide just the facts, offer amazing story angles and even provide neutral non-branded graphical assets for them to use, would media outlets actually listen? Would they be open to new ideas happening in the fringes beyond SF or NYC’s borders? One can hope, but speaking from experience, I’m not seeing it happen very often. That infatuation with the big seven and funding announcements just gets more prevalent.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this. What do you think? As readers, do you care about funding announcements? Do you want to hear about ‘other’ companies besides the big seven?