Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who Are The Tech Press Darlings?

Innovation Journalism Vol. 7 No. 7,  21 Nov 2010

By Morten Bay

Who Are The Tech Press Darlings? 
An Empirical Stidy of Coverage of Innovation-Driven Tech Companies in US Newspapers.

This paper contains a small study of empirical data collected between April 19, 2010 and May 19, 2010. The data is the five largest newspapers’ coverage of the ten largest innovation-driven technology companies in the US. The study is presented as a description of the current state of the presence of Innovation Journalism in American mainstream media. Newspapers have been chosen due to the fact that even though they are losing ground to web, mobile, tv and radio, newspapers still produce the vast majority of news stories proliferated through other media in the US.

The study shows an significant imbalance in coverage. There is a tendency towards coverage of two specific companies, Apple and Google. The difference between their presence in the newspapers, and the amount of coverage given to their competition is quite substantial, with the closest competitor, Microsoft, only obtaining approximately half of the coverage that the two companies get.

In the study, network mapping analysis is used to link journalists to companies in order to find out whether there are certain groups of journalists (e.g. specialized tech reporters) that help create imbalance by focusing on only a few innovators, or if –as is the case – it is a widespread tendency among all the journalists to cover Apple and Google more than others. The network mapping analysis is useful for identifying hubs, nodes in the network that are more connected than others, in this case either documenting that one journalist covers tech on a regular basis, or whether one journalist writes more positive stories about a company than negative stories.

The study also shows that positive stories are dominant. There is an approximate 20-30 percent difference in favor of the positive stories, sometimes even more. It is discussed whether this lack of balance and critical journalism is actually good for Innovation Journalism or not. Some argue that a positive slant works to build social capital for innovation in general, while others argue that not following ethical guidelines in Innovation Journalism actually diminishes coverage of the innovators and innovations that aren’t necessarily fashionable or popular at a given time – which creates an imbalance like the one we see towards Google and Apple.

Finally, it is discussed what creates an imbalance like the present one, and how to find a solution to the problem. It is argued that it is the success of building an effective reputation and a lovable brand through non-traditional PR and advertising that gives Google and Apple the edge. Towards the end, this paper criticizes journalists for not trying to even out the balance, and seeks to find a reason why a more balanced coverage is not available to the public. It is argued that a self-reinforcing media hype, which stems from the effective attention work of Apple and Google, also has a blinding effect on journalists, creating the illusion that Apple and Google are all the public cares about – giving the editorial decision-makers a reason to cover them more.