Tech media has fallen down, and it can’t get upBy Mike Rothman
I’m going to rant a bit this morning. I’m due. Overdue, in fact. I have been far too well behaved lately. But as I mentioned in this week’s Incite, summer is over and it’s time to stir the pot a bit.
Tech media isn’t about reporting anymore. It’s about generating page views by hook or by crook, and when that doesn’t work, trying to get vendors to sponsor crappy survey-based reports that rank vendors based on … well, nothing of relevance. The page view whoring has driven quality into the ground. Those folks who used to man the beat of security reporting – giants like Brian Krebs, Ryan Naraine, George Hulme, Dennis Fisher, Paul Roberts, and Matt Hines – have moved out of mainstream media. Matt left the media business altogether (as have many other reporters). Ryan, Paul, and Dennis now work for Kaspersky with their hands in Threatpost. George is a freelance writer. And Krebs is Krebsonsecurity.com, kicking ass and taking names, all while fighting off the RBN on a daily basis.
Admittedly, this is a gross generalization. Obviously there are talented folks still covering security and doing good work. Our friends at DarkReading and TechTarget stand out as providing valuable content most of the time. They usually don’t resort to those ridiculous slideshows to bump page views and know enough to partner with external windbags like us to add a diversity of opinion to their sites.
But the more general tech media outlets should be ashamed of themselves. Far too much of their stuff isn’t worthy of a dog’s byline. No fact checking. Just come up with the most controversial headline, fill in a bunch of meaningless content, SEO optimize the entire thing to get some search engine love, and move on to the next one. Let’s go over a few examples.
A friend pointed me to this gem on ZDNet, highlighting some Webroot research about Android malware. Would you like a Coke or a side of exhaust fumes with that FUD sandwich? It seems the author (Rachel King) mischaracterized the research, didn’t find alternative or contrary opinions and sensationalized the threat in the headline. Ed Burnette picks apart the post comprehensively and calls out the reporter, which is great. But why was the piece green lighted in the first place? Hello, calling all ZDNet editors. It’s your job to make sure the stuff posted on your site isn’t crap. FAIL.
Then let’s take a look at some of the ‘reports’ distributed via InformationWeek. First check out their IDS/IPS rankings. 26 pages of meaningless drivel. The highlight is the overall performance rating, based on what, you ask? A lab test? A demo of the devices? A real world test? Market share? 3rd party customer satisfaction rankings? Of course not. They based them on a survey. Really, an online survey. Assessing performance of network security gear by asking customers if they are happy and about the features of the box they own. That’s pretty objective. I mean, come on, man!
I’d highlight the results, but in good conscience I can’t highlight results that are totally contrary to the research I actually do on a daily basis. And what’s worse is that InformationWeek claims these reports “arm business technology decision-makers with real-world perspective based on qualitative and quantitative research, business and technology assessment and planning tools, and adoption best practices gleaned from experience.” But what qualitative research wouldn’t include Sourcefire in this kind of assessment of the IDS/IPS business?
Their SIEM report is similarly offensive. These are basically blind surveys where they have contracted folks who know nothing about these technologies to compile the data and bang out some text so vendors on the wrong side of the innovation curve (but with name recognition) can sponsor the reports and crow about something. At least with a Magic Quadrant or a Wave, you know the analyst applied their own filter to the
lies responses on vendor surveys.
What really hurts is that plenty of folks believe what they read in the trade press. At times I think the Borowitz Report does more fact checking on its news. Far too many unsuspecting end users make short list decisions based on a farcical research reports that don’t even meet The Onion’s editorial standards. I have been around the block a hundred times, and my BS filter is highly tuned. I know what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Everyone else deserves better.