CES and Me: An Experiment in Journalism

On Wednesday, I’ll be joining the throngs heading for the 2010 International consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. But this time I will be doing something completely new. In addition to moderating panels for CES and the Technology Policy Summit @ CES, I will be writing for NVIDIA’s nTersect blog and, yes, I will be getting paid for it.

After leaving BusinessWeek on Dec. 1, I had to make a decision about CES. When I committed myself to run two panels, I had assumed I would be doing so in my capacity as a columnist. I decided I wanted to keep those commitments, even though I would be attending effectively without portfolio–and paying the cost out of my own pocket.

When Robert Sherbin of NVIDIA contacted me about doing the blog, I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded attractive. On the other, this sort of direct sponsorship went against all the instincts of more than 35 years in journalism.

But the world of journalism that I have known for all those years is dying fast. We are going to have to find new models to survive, and, unless a miracle occurs and we can find a way to get readers to pay directly for content,  those models are going to have to include sponsorship arrangements of one sort or another. In truth, journalism has always involved sponsorship. In the old world of advertiser-supported conventional media, an elaborate infrastructure separated the sponsors–advertisers–from the sponsored–journalists. The arrangement was never as pure as we liked to believe, but for the most part it worked.

The new digital world is forcing us writers into a much more intimate relationship with sponsors. It’s easy to see an enormous potential for pitfalls, but I also think it can be made to work. I regard two conditions of my arrangement with NVIDIA as critical. One is that the relationship be fully disclosed. The other is that I have editorial freedom, subject only to NVIDIA’s request that I write on topics of interest to the company and its customers  (so there will be no nTersect posts on giant car speaker systems or iPhone cases.)

I don’t think this will be the last experiment I try as we grope our way toward new ways of doing business. But I am interested in hearing what you think.

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9 Responses to “CES and Me: An Experiment in Journalism”

  1. Ben Smith Says:

    I think it will be interesting for you to write from the perspective of a specific company/sector for this project. I always have found your reviews to be fair, and I don’t think something like this would bias you anyway.

  2. Joshua Weinberg Says:

    Steve, glad to see you get a gig to help support your being at CES and I think the two criteria you put in place are a good start. To those I would add something to the effect of:

    I will form a voluntary ombudsman panel of other journalists/editors who I will ask to review any stories I write directly about NVIDIA or its direct competitors. If any of these Ombudsmen has a significant comment about the independence of my article I will post their comments at the end of my article under an “Ombudsman’s Note.”

    Just my thought…

    Good luck and see you in a few days!

    -josh

    • swildstrom Says:

      I don’t think I’ll have a chance to do that formally, but I think my readers on this blog, who include a number of colleagues, can fill that role nicely. I will post links to to my nTersect posts here and on Twitter and if I step out of line, let me know.

  3. Csaba Says:

    I think you made a good choice and as long as its transparent, it could even work! Best regards, Csaba Ps: Waiting for the CES news! 🙂

  4. Peter Giles Says:

    Steve,

    Above everything else, you are a great tech journalist with the skill to present facts in a clear, concise manner. Regardless of the sponsorship ties (which have always existed, then and now), you can remain true to yourself and continue to provide wonderful insight to your loyal readers in this new forum. The greatest challenge, as I see it, is to constantly market yourself and your product, in key social communities, in order to build up a new following.

    Good luck!

  5. Fred Teeter Says:

    Steve –

    Count me among the millions who miss you already at Business Week (or, noting its unfortunate new name BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK)

  6. Fred Teeter Says:

    Whoops! I clearly don’t know my way around blogging software. That or (and?) my fingers don’t work keyboards the way they did.

    Godspeed on your various new endeavors in a brace new media world. I’ll be reading. Your articles have always been among the best I peruse about technology. Thanks for the past greatness. I look forward to more!

    Fred
    Westminster, MD (not so far from Kensington)

  7. Javier Enrique Says:

    I miss the columns, I do, but the podcast! please do the podcast again! About print media. Newspapers and magazines will start charging again, they have to. New york times is starting to do it after Murdoch started the trend this year with the WSJ. Guess who the only growing newspapers were last year? The two that charged for content, Economist and WSJ. With the ereaders exploding the way they are, in order for good content to reach people, those people will have to pay. I am one willing to pay for good journalism, not news, but good, in depth journalism. How about you and the Economist?

  8. Ethics and Content Marketing: Ex-BW Writers Weigh In | B2B Memes Says:

    […] that working directly for sponsors can provoke. Former BW tech columnist Steve Wildstrom wrote on January 4 that he had accepted a gig writing for chip manufacturer Nvidia. While such “direct […]

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