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February 09, 2011

How we get news

A big part of the work here at is getting and spreading the news on what's going on in the rugged and mobile computing world. How do we do that? And how can manufacturers help get the news out?

In the past, it was pretty simple. We went to trade shows to see what all was new, loaded up on glossy brochures, attended press conferences, and left behind a bushel of business cards so we'd be in the rolodex of everyone who mattered in the rugged computing industry. That pretty much ensured a steady supply of news via mailed press kits and such, plenty enough to fill a print magazine every other month back in the day when we published Pen Computing Magazine. For a while after that era, it was a hybrid thing, with part of the news coming the old-fashioned way, and part gleaned from websites.

It's all changed now. We still go to the occasional trade show, and they are always fun and helpful. And you get to actually see the people there. But shows are also expensive and a time waster, what with all the traveling, cabs, airports, hotels, waiting in line, and then the rush at the show itself. So for the most part, trade shows are a (bitter)sweet memory now.

Today, news comes from numerous sources, through numerous channels, and I get it all sitting in front of the big display of my iMac27 with dozens of windows open. That, for me, is news central, and here's where it all comes from:

BusinessWire PressPass -- a daily email with headline news on the topics I subscribe to. The cool thing is that they show the company logo next to the headline. That makes it easy to very rapidly scroll down the (looong) email and stop when my eye catches a familiar logo. Seems like a little thing, but in this day and age of massive information overflow, we need all the filters and help we can get.

PR Newswire for Journalists -- these are individual emails that include a paragraph that describes the news, and also links directly to a full press release. These are quite useful.

Marketwire Newsletter -- another daily email with items of interest for me, but this one is all text, and the headline is accompanied by paragraph. That increases the chance that I can search for keywords like "rugged" and catch things of interest. But it's also tedious to sift through a hundred paragraphs of news.

Google alerts -- yes, Google does it again. I have Google alerts set up for pretty much all the companies I follow, and also some on beats I cover. They are typical Google minimalist, and, like Google searches, they tend to include stuff I really don't need, but it's a great way to keep track of all mentions of a topic or term. Very useful.

PR folks and agencies -- yes, they still fill a purpose. I get emails from dozens of agencies and individuals. Some are very useful and I couldn't do without them. Others seem to simply pad their mailing lists. Overall, a good PR agency contact is invaluable. And good PR people assigned to the same account for a long time? Gold.

Websites -- company websites are still the definite, authoritative source of information. Problem is, many are falling behind the news. Some sites only seem to get updated when they have a web designer re-do their site. Then it eventually falls into near disrepair. That's the exception, of course, but even large companies with good sites often issue press releases without having the info up on their own sites when the news breaks. That is frustrating.

Social media -- honestly, far less useful than what the in-crowd wants you to think. I just don't have the time to be a "fan" of every company I need to cover, be that on Facebook or Twitter or what all.

Communities, Web 2.0, etc. -- the first time I saw a company "community" site was cool. I think it was the Sanda agency that did it for Trimble. It was well done, fun, informative. And the overall recipe has been copied by many others. This can be a nice way to foster a community spirit between companies and users, sort of like an ongoing user conference. But it's far too time-consuming for us media guys. We just don't have the time to stop by for a chat and looking around. So for news, not good. Overall, nice concept and useful.

Pounding the street -- yes, we still do that. Not really the street, of course, but the web. That's because we inevitably miss news and things fall through the cracks. So periodically I go check websites to see if something happened that we missed. But we can't do that often enough for this approach to do anything but fill gaps.

Too much news? Not enough news? -- Overall, of course, the world's drowning in news. And sifting through all that news takes a major chunk of my time every day. That, and then converting worthwhile news into our own, very targeted news items, product pages, and, eventually, the detailed reviews RuggedPCReview is known for.

However, there seems very little consensus on how much news is right.

There are companies that announce something practically every day, and that's often too much of a good thing. I am also not fond of news that really isn't news at all, but just a way to get in the news.

On the other hand, there are companies that seem to avoid news like the plague. I look at their websites and find a news item from last summer, then one from the winter before that, and that's that. Not good enough. Every company that sells stuff has news, and that news needs to get out. It doesn't always have to be a new product announcement; news about updates, upgrades, partnerships, contract wins, successful deployments, tech primers, white papers; they are all news.

Because, after all, news is about being in the news, being on top of the page, getting attention. That sort of exposure makes buyers think, "Hmmm... I just read about that company the other day. Let me look them up."

And that's what it's all about.

Posted by conradb212 at February 9, 2011 04:12 PM